This brief post is Cinema Train’s entry in the 2012 Summer Under the Stars blogathon hosted by ScribeHard and Sittin’ On A Backyard Fence. Today is the day that TCM pays tribute to Deborah Kerr and my contribution to the blogathon is this quick review of the beloved Black Narcissus.
Great movies sweep us off our feet and do not set us down until the closing credits roll. They embody the times and places in which they are set and transport us to other worlds. One such film is Black Narcissus. Its setting not only feels like a real place, but I often find myself genuinely wanting to go there. With the wind constantly whistling in the background and sunlight flooding through open windows, Powell and Pressburger’s movie becomes a world in itself. It is a paradise for classic film lovers and its scenic beauty ranks among the greatest of classic cinema.
The story is about the difficulties of staying pure and blameless amongst the temptations of everyday life. The nuns of the film each struggle to maintain their faith because of their different weaknesses, but they all have the same doubts. In one of the movie’s most exciting moments, the nuns all gather in a single room and explode with questions, each seeking guidance about her own trials.
Every one of the leads performs well, especially Kerr as a steadfast sister superior. Likewise, the direction is not particularly flashy, but it is skillful enough to intrigue viewers on the spot. The real treat, however, is the wonderful Technicolor cinematography by the legendary Jack Cardiff. Just as with P&P’s The Red Shoes, Cardiff’s masterful execution transforms a fairly simple story to a great work of cinematic art.
Black Narcissus was not the most popular Archers production (The Red Shoes) or the most thrilling (Peeping Tom) but it continues to be mentioned alongside those great films. Themes aside, it is a movie of exotic beauty and atmosphere and one that is always remembered with fondness by those who have experienced it.
Note: Black Narcissus is currently available to stream on Netflix Instant. There is also a noteworthy documentary on Jack Cardiff called Cameraman available for streaming as well.