Monday, August 25, 2008

Essential Cinema - 40

Black Narcissus

Deborah Kerr ... Sister Clodagh
Flora Robson ... Sister Philippa
Jean Simmons ... Kanchi
David Farrar ... Mr. Dean
Sabu ... The Young General
Esmond Knight ... The Old General
Kathleen Byron ... Sister Ruth
Jenny Laird ... Sister Honey
Judith Furse ... Sister Briony

Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Rumer Godden (novel)
Michael Powell (written by) &
Emeric Pressburger (written by)

Jack Cardiff

A group of five nuns is sent to establish a church in rural India during the 1930s.

How a new perspective can reawaken the suppressed memories and desires of those in denial. A different point of view can be a dangerous thing.

I was very impressed with this film. This is one of the films that epitomizes the British Film Industry when it started to experiment with color after the 2nd World War. They took a slightly different tack than Hollywood and the results are very impressive.

This film is shot in Technicolor which gives it a fantastic visual image. The sets had to be lite with very bright lights and the colors come across as very vivid with deep shadows. The effect is as though you are watching a moving painting.

The plot of this film is not an easy thing to understand. It is fairly subtle and has to do with the ordeals that a group of nuns have to endure as they attempt to establish a convent in a remote part of India. The clash of culture and the raw, barbaric beauty of the rural countryside forces each of the sisters to question her vows and re-examine their past.

This film is a wonderful example of how sexual tension can be implied. There is a lot of smoldering eroticism in this film, but it is only hinted at in the looks on charactors faces and the things that upset them. You can tell there is a sharp difference in what the character are saying and what they are really thinking.

The performances are wonderful, especially that of Deborah Kerr, and the scenery is spectacular. There isn't much that detracts from this film except that some modern day viewers may find the lack of a story arch and conclusion to be a bit frustrating. But this is a different kind of story telling from a different age of film making.

This film is available for downloading in M4V format (iPod/AppleTV/Quicktime Pro) by clicking the graphic below.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry for this film. The listing of all the LaserDiscs that I have reviewed on IMDB can be found here.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.