By Sarah Street
Black Narcissus, now heralded as a masterpiece, is a landmark movie within the influential canon of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. With the centenary of Powell's delivery in 2005 this well timed book--the first committed completely to the film--draws on archival files, unique set drawings and stills to illustrate its amazing achievements, either as a construction and as a automobile for ideas. taking a look at the film's enduring photos of either position and gender, Sarah highway additionally examines Black Narcissus as a masterly technical accomplishment, in addition to a meditation at the finish of empire. having a look too on the film's debatable reception via overseas critics and censors, and its next effect on experimental filmmakers, highway explores problems with strategy, sort, functionality and interpretation to bare the continuing relevance of the movie this day.
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Extra info for Black Narcissus (British Film Guides)
94 This creative triumph of artiﬁce can be seen as a fascinating cultural meditation on the end of empire. The ﬁnal lines of the novel provide a poignant summary of the conﬂicts contained within its pages, conﬂicts that Powell and Junge exaggerated in the design of the ﬁlm: They were all startled by a sudden clap of thunder that went roaring down the hill. ‘Dear goodness we must hurry! ’ The grooms sprang up, stamping the ﬁre out. The Sisters rose stiﬄy, brushing leaves and moss from their habits.
As the camera follows Angu Ayah it surveys the palace where we see Junge ’s erotic wall painting designs, which communicate a sense of its past as the ‘House of Women’, a perspective that could not have been envisaged by Reverend Mother and Sister Clodagh since its function is, for the viewer, outside the containing structure of Mr Dean’s voiceover. This is diﬀerent from the novel, in which we learn that Clodagh visited Mopu a month before her interview with Mother Superior and that she was aﬀected by it: ‘She had not forgotten it since.
On a metaphorical level these motifs can be interpreted as attempts to control the environment, to contain its disturbing elements within habitable structures. Yet we also are constantly reminded of how the wind nevertheless blows incessantly through the palace, of its failure to protect the nuns from outside forces. The contrast with Reverend Mother’s oﬃce, with its pulsating fan and mise-en-scène of order, could not be greater. The camera remains behind the nun who BLACK NARCISSUS 38 has opened the doors until we infer that it is Ruth, whom so far we have not seen but who now has her own distinctive visual introduction, ringing the bell.