Title: Black Narcissus
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Writers: Powell and Pressburger, adapted from the novel by Rumer Godden
Stars: Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons
The Story: An order of nuns takes over a former brothel on a remote mountaintop in the Himalayas and try to civilize the natives. Instead, they are slowly driven mad by the “fresh air”.
Why It’s Great: Most film buffs in my generation discovered this movie through the great documentary Visions of Light, which singled it out for having some of the best cinematography of all time, and indeed Jack Cardiff’s lush, otherworldly color pallatte and unnerving compositions make this a singularly intense experience, unlike anything else ever shot before or since, but it’s not just the look– the total film is a masterpiece, including the script, direction and performances. The story could not be more shockingly irreverent: a bunch of racist nuns are destroyed by erotic madness! (In a big budge movie from 1948??) But it also drives one thing home: If you’re writing an irreverent movie, then you’re writing a movie about reverence. Powell doesn’t approve of these women’s choice, but he performs an extraordinary feat of sympathy anyway. If you want to criticize someone’s world then you must learn to recreate their world, and to recreate their world you must understand them. Sure, they may change at the end, or maybe you just get your point of view across by poking holes in theirs– what the movie “means” is defined by how it ends, but getting there requires that the writers must first totally sympathize with any world they want to criticize.Link to this Post: http://www.moviewithme.com/blog/archives/1046