Starring Deborah Kerr, David Ferrar, Kathleen Byron, Jean Simmons, Sabu, Flora Robson. Esmond Knight
Stunning. Provocative. Elusive.
There’s something mysterious about Black Narcissus, one of Powell and Pressburger’s many masterpieces, about a group of nuns led by the young sister superior, Clodagh (Kerr), who set up camp in the Himalayas and find the locale has a strange effect on them. For something so melodramatic, so sensationalized and emotional, I have always felt that there is so much more underneath it all. The characters are transparent. I feel that their desires are well-understood if not explicit, but what the film itself feels about these characters is a mystery to me, still, after a couple dozen viewings. Black Narcissus seems somehow both provocative and aloof, emotional and detached. It’s one of cinema’s greatest enigmas on film, which is why it gets better each time I come back to it. Seen by some as a reflection of Britain’s relationship with colonized India, this glorious technicolor drama with incredible set designs and subtly passionate performances is among the best films ever made.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-