Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Black Narcissus - Filmhouse - 2/6/10

What do you want from a film?

Do you want to be entertained?

Do you want to be challenged?

Do you want to be made to think?

Do you want to be frightened?

Do you want to be shocked?

Do you want to see beauty?

Do you want cinematography that blows you away?

Do you want a film that tells the story of a group of nuns who move into the former "house of women" in a remote Indian village to set up a school and who then fall prey to a madness that ends horribly for all concerned?

If that's what you want then Powell and Pressburgers gem "Black Narcissus" is the film for you.

If that isn't what you want then you should stop reading might even want to think about giving up on breathing.

Deborah Kerr stars as Sister Clodagh who has donned the Habit in order to forget the love she lost as a young women in Ireland. She is placed in charge of a rag-tag bunch of Sisters including Sister Ruth who soon falls in love with Englishman, Mr Dean played by David Farrar and then slowly descends into madness before throwing herself at Dean and then at Sister Clodagh but in very different ways. Oh, and just for good measure Jean Simmons plays an exotic native girl who is Lolita to the power of ten.

Madness, love, passion, desire, lust, religion, faith...all wrapped up in a film that is so beautiful to look at that you could easily watch it without sound and be as entranced as you are with it. The credit for that, in large part, lies at the feet of cinematographer Jack Cardiff who was a mainstay of many of Powell and Pressburgers films.

"Black Narcissus" isn't a film that you can afford to miss. It should feature high on any list of films to see before you die. Sixty-three years old and it still has the ability to shock and it looks as fresh now as it would have in 1947. It is a film that demands that you love it...few will be able to resist it's charms.

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