Friday, November 19, 2010

#198 Black Narcissus (1947)


Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Esmond Knight, Jean Simmons, Kathleen Byron, Jenny Laird, Judith Furse, May Hallat

Sister Clodagh is a young nun who has just been promoted quite unexpectedly (and perhaps too soon) to start a new convent, school, and hospital at a remote location in the Himalayas. The palace is an old harem, perched atop a cliff where the wind blows strong 24/7 and people have a habit of not staying long.

Leading a team of four other nuns, she seeks help and companionship (albeit reluctantly) from a guide named "Mr. Dean," a dark ruffian who lives amongst the natives. He helps the nuns to understand the superstitious natives (who are only attending the convent because they are being paid to do so), a young Prince/General, and a poor, young, and fiesty native girl.

The sensuous history of the palace seems to slowly begin wreaking havoc on the pious group's psyche, and Sister Clodagh and Sister Ruth seem to be at odds with one another over their pasts and their affections toward Mr. Dean. When the young prince and fiesty native girl disappear together and a young village boy dies, Sister Ruth is sent over the edge into insanity and tries to take Sister Clodagh (quite literally) over the edge with her.

Though I have nothing exactly against the film, I can't say anything about it particularly captivated me either. I understood the deep psychological complexity these characters possessed, and I also was aware of the ongoing irony of the nuns (those with unfounded beliefs) being more grounded than those without (superstitious natives). It seemed to me, however, extremely disjointed–almost broken into stiff segments of action/theme. And while I understood the purpose of the Mr. Dean character, he came across as cheesy (um, those shorts???).

As for the plot twist, without giving toooo much away, Sister Ruth quickly and somewhat suddenly becomes the center of attention. The jarring visuals this plot twist inspired were extremely disruptive and disturbing to the greater picture. Yet to be decided if that was a stroke of genius or unsuited.

No comments:

Post a Comment