Directed by Michael Powell. UK. 1947. NR. 102 minutes. MGM. Digital.
Sun., May 29, 2016
“In his memoir “A Life In Movies,” the late British director Michael Powell explained that after WWII, he became interested in the concept of the “composed film,” and began shaping his pictures to have the abstract emotional resonance of great music, rather than the plainness of narrative. His first clear nod in that direction was 1947’s “Black Narcissus,” a spiritual melodrama that climaxes in an exaggerated incident of violence which Powell assembled, he writes, as “an opera, in the sense that music, emotion, image, and voices all blended together into a new and splendid whole.” “Black Narcissus” was the 11th collaboration between Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, and the sixth of 12 films that the men would release under the production credit “The Archers.” It remains a rapturous, near-indescribable work of cinematic art, spun from a simple story about nuns who travel to the Himalayas to start a school and a hospital, only to have mountain winds and native mysticism weaken their confidence and their faith. The title refers to an exotic perfume that clouds the air around their mission, redirecting the thoughts of the mother superior (Deborah Kerr) to the sensuous world she meant to leave behind.” (Noel Murrary, The Onion AV Club)