Thursday, 11 December 2014

Film Review: "Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger" Black Narcissus (1947)

Figure 1. Film poster: "Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger" Black Narcissus (1947)

Black Narcissus is a film of amazing production design,especially for it's time, it is a movie that creates tension that builds toward horror at the end of the film. A group of nuns journeys out to a the Himalayas,to a place called the Palace of Mopu. The journey to Mopu is lead by sister Clodagh, they settle within the Palace that had a past that conflicts with the nuns way of living. the nuns try to turn it into a Christian school and a church throughout the film.And as the end of they film approaches the nuns belief's are tested to the limit.
Figure 2. Sister Clodagh Ringing the Bell
This film was made in the 40s and for the time it was made techniques instead of today's CG was used, Powell and Pressburger used matte painting very effectively to create realism for the scenes of the movie. In figure 2, you can see the nun on the platform ringing the bell, everything else is in fact a matte painting.Michael Howell said is his article "It is a beautifully designed film, exquisite in its set design, cinematography and costumes"(Howells, 2011). as can be seen in the striking still.

Black Narcissus 
Figure 3. Ruth still
Joseph Jon Lanther said in his film review  "teased and tempted Anglo nuns into a hornily unholy froth through the piercing clarity of the Himalayan elements"(Jon Lanther, 2012). he could be inferring that due to living in the conditions high up in the Himalayas, the nuns get a sense of freedom, being influenced by the natural land to question their devotion to God.this can be seen in the sexual anxiety of Sister Ruth.

Figure 5. Sister Ruth sexual anxiety 

The story starts off with cold tones of predominantly green and blue 
Adam Bagatavicius said Lurid emotions are matched on screen by aesthetic and textual excess, effectively amplifying the darkness and instability evoked by the nuns.” (Adam Bagatavicius, 2012) what can be inferred from this is the relation of colour to the nuns emotions.for instance Red appears on everything associated with sensuality and danger: namely Ruths suggestive lipstick application is tinted with a red which indicates her sensuality. in the end of the film the light becomes fiery red and orange and shows the evil behind sister Ruth's intentions.

Illustrations List

Figure 1. "Black Narcissus" (1947)[Film poster] At: on 02.12.2014)

Figure 2. Sister Clodagh Ringing the Bell (1947) From: Black Narcissus, Directed by: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. [Film still] United Kingdom: The Archers.

Figure 3. ruth stil:l (1947)(Accessed on 02.12.2014)

Figure 5. Sister Ruth sexual anxiety still (1947) From: Black Narcissus, Directed by: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. [Film still] United Kingdom: The Archers. ( Accessed on 02.12.2014)


Bagatavicius, A. (Winter, 1978-1979) Bloodcurdling Holiness in Black Narcissus.
At: (Accessed on 16/11/14)

Jon Lanther, J.(2012)'Film Review - Black Narcissus' In Slant Magazine[Online] At: on 02.12.2014)
Howells, M.(2011)'Behind the Mask: Production Design in Black Narcissus' In Guru [Online] At: on 02.12.2014)

1 comment:

  1. Good discussion around the use of colour :)
    See my previous comments re bibliography and font issues!