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Black Narcissus

January 4, 2013

by John Farr

John Farr discusses an earlier Deborah Kerr film, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.


Black Narcissus (1947)

What It’s About:
When young Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is asked to open a convent-hospital in a former brothel perched high above a small village in India, she readily agrees, despite knowing hardships lie ahead. Once there, she’s greeted by a sardonic Englishman, Mr. Dean (David Farrar), who takes great delight in ruffling Sister Clodagh’s habit. But it’s jealous, unstable Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) who eventually succumbs to the dark allure of the exotic, windswept setting.

Why I Love It:
Another great success for “Red Shoes” helmers Powell-Pressburger, “Narcissus” is an absorbing, finely acted British melodrama about the secular problems facing a new mother superior in an unfamiliar, potentially hostile new environment. The directors even stirred controversy by developing a subtle yet credible sexual tension between the luminous Kerr and hunky Farrar. Jack Cardiff’s Oscar-winning Technicolor photography and Alfred Junge’s hand-crafted art design give this film exceptional production values to boot. And Kathleen Byron’s celebrated turn as the unhinged Sister Ruth climaxes in a suspenseful sequence that’s hard to forget.

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  • comments (0)
  • Daniel Werner

    I just saw this for the first time recently and yes, this is one great film!! 1947! Kathleen Byrons’ performance is so riverting! Since this is Oscar season one must say s
    he should have won Best Supporting Actress!