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Black Narcissus [1947] [DVD] [1998]

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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  • Black Narcissus [1947] [DVD] [1998]
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Product details

  • Actors: Deborah Kerr, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons, David Farrar, Sabu
  • Format: PAL, Dolby, Mono, Full Screen, Colour
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Network
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Sept. 2005
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000AGK112
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,763 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

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).

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1947 masterpiece Black Narcissus was probably the most revolutionary, innovative and daring film of the period (certainly of British films) and still stands up well today. When the Archers (the name under which P&P made their films) raised the proposed subject matter of the film (a group of nuns, sexual repression, murder, etc) with Arthur Rank, who had his hands on the purse strings at the time, he was understandably nervous, but largely due to Powell's characteristic determination, thankfully the film got made.

Black Narcissus' story centres on a group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Superior Clodagh (superbly played by Deborah Kerr), who are sent to a remote part of the Himalayas to establish a school and hospital for the benefit of the local population. Their objectives are undermined by a combination of factors, including the reluctance of the local British agent Mr Dean (David Farrar) to support them and the increasingly eccentric behaviour from the mentally unstable Sister Ruth (played by Kathleen Byron, in a film-stealing performance).

Black Narcissus was way ahead of its time in many elements. The most notable is undoubtedly the way in which the film creates a brooding, and increasing, atmosphere of sexual tension between the three main characters, Sisters Clodagh and Ruth and Mr Dean, as the latter parades through the nuns' living quarters (ironically a converted harem!) in shorts and bare, hairy legs. Visually, the film is also uniquely stunning.
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Powell and Pressburger in the 40's were a sure fire guarantee of cinema that was imaginative, innovative and involving - and this was one of the pinnacles of their career.
On the surface another British melodrama, this was made into much more, using the relatively new and cumbersome Technicolor process for heretofore unimagined uses. While America was using colour as a way of making musicals and location work bigger and more exciting, Powell and Pressburger were finding ways of using it as a way of expressing the internal - emotions as colour.
In this movie, we have Deborah Kerr as a nun who has been sent as Mother Superior to a palace (and former harem) in India in the shadow of the Himalayas to make of it a school and dispensary. However the location and its otherworldliness begin to gnaw at the nuns in different ways, digging up old forgotten memories of their previous lives, and forcing one all the way to madness. The presence of the Englishman who is their only source of help, only adds to a simmering atmosphere of repressed emotion which threatens to burst out as time progresses.
As a melodrama this might seem a little dated by modern viewers eyes, however as an expression of the dichotomy between our human nature and the nature of religion (in this case Christianity) this is a fascinating and timeless piece - and as a piece of cinema, this will stay with you for a very long time, with its stunning expressionist style and startling colours. One moment, when a nun driven mad appears in a doorway with murderous thoughts in mind, is more chilling than anything I have seen in a long time, all captured in one look through fantastic lighting.
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By schumann_bg TOP 50 REVIEWER on 9 Mar. 2015
Format: DVD
This extraordinary melodrama set in a convent in the Himalayas brought together the talents of Powell and Pressburger with the cinematographer Jack Cardiff and composer Brian Easdale, who would work together so memorably again the following year on The Red Shoes. But this film is just as good, and has many of the same virtues, particularly a sense of profound mystery which, while not quite religious in itself, elides closely with the vocation of the nuns. The convent is perched on a mountain peak where the weather is as clear as crystal and a permanent wind blows, often bringing the sound of drums if anyone is ill in the village in the valley below. The clarity is all too much, and the nuns threaten to go off the rails; none is spared the stirring of the spirit and past traumas brought about by the location, and Sister Superior Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) has her work cut out keeping them all from running amok. In fact it starts to feel as though it can only be a matter of time, especially once Mr Dean (David Farrar) puts in an appearance in very short shorts, and at one point shirtless ... he is a go-between with the local inhabitants. The film is shot through with colourful incidents as the nuns try to set up their school for girls and clinic, and towards the end it lurches into quite expressionistic terrain bordering on the lurid - a fascinating pushing of boundaries in all senses. This is where Easdale's score shows its true, vibrant colours, introducing a choral dimension a little like Georges Auric's score for La Belle et la bete. The most amazing thing of all is to think that it was all shot in the studio - the drop at the back of the buildings is sheer from a high bell which stands alone and is often swung with gay abandon and not a little bravery.Read more ›
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