A classic Powell/Pressburger tale of sexual awakening based on the Rumer Godden novel. A group of British nuns are sent into the Himalayas to set up a mission in what was once the harem's quarters of an ancient palace. The clear mountain air, the unfamiliar culture and the unbridled sensuality of a young prince (Sabu) and his beggar-girl lover (Jean Simmons) begin to play havoc with the nuns' long-suppressed emotions. Whilst the young Mother Superior, Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), fights a losing battle for order, the jaunty David Farrar falls in love with her, sparking uncontrollable jealousy in another nun, Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron).
In spite of their patriotism and love of Britain, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger remain the most "un-British" of movie makers. Much of this has to do with the almost hyper-real, super-intensity of their films, in terms of their editing, the soundtracks and their peculiar colour schemes. This is especially the case with Black Narcissus
. A group of Catholic British nuns invited by an Indian ruler to open a hospital in the Himalayas. However, the strain of exposure to the elements, to the native culture and to the broody, handsome presence of British agent David Ferrar, tell on the sisters. It's all Deborah Kerr can do to hold on to her vows, as she she is tormented by memories of a lost love in Ireland. Kathleen Byron's more hysterical nun is made of less stern stuff and succumbs, leaving the order and going mad with lust for Ferrar. The final confrontation between the two, maroon Byron versus white Kerr atop a belltower, is reminiscent of Eisenstein and also prefigures the climax to Hitchcock's Vertigo
. The (award-winning) cinematography is the true star of this film. --David Stubbs
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.