Monday, 19 December 2016

Film Review - Black Narcissus

Fig 1. Movie Poster
Black Narcissus (1947) directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a film that focuses on loneliness and solitude. The film follows a group of nuns as they set up a school and hospital on top of a mountain. The top of the mountain is a remote place, leaving the nuns in isolation for much of their time.

The films use of colour works with its story in that there are more natural colours used at the beginning, then as the nuns feel the effects of isolation more colours are brought in. One such colour is red used to light scenes where conflict is shown, both internal conflict and external, particularly around Sister Ruth. This is shown slowly shown through colour, 'A copper pink light is thrown onto the walls through grills and windows and the scene of Sister Ruth applying red lipstick holding a vivid red compact, is spellbinding' (Howells, 2011). The red that is used appear 'feverish and is as effective and foreboding as Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now"' (Mirasol, 2010).

Fig 2, Sister Ruth applies lipstick
The isolation in the film is shown to have an effect on the characters the more time they spend in it. At the beginning of the film the nuns are shown as normal, devout and kind but as the film progresses the isolation affects them all. Throughout the film it is shown that 'their inner turmoil is exacerbated by extreme conditions and isolation.' (Mirasol, 2010). Sister Ruth is particularly affected by the isolation and as such 'conceives an erotomaniacal obsession for Dean, and her final appearance in the film, gaunt and wraithlike, is still one of the scariest moments'. (Bradshaw, 2005).


Bradshaw, Peter, 2005 "Black Narcissus" -

Howells, Michael, 2011 "Behind the Mask: Production design in Black Narcissus" -
Mirasol, Michael, 2010 "Black Narcissus," which electrified Scorsese -


Figure 1 -

Figure 2 -

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