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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Space Oddities : Black Narcissus (1947)

Michael Powell`s Black Narcissus (1947) is a spectacularly made classic , where the use of matte paintings transform the landscape from a British landscape into a convincing view of the Himalayas. At first Black Narcissus seems to be a charming tale with dark humor , where the themes of corruption seem to empower the nuns in this film .With sexual hints provided throughout the film; such as their sanctuary of god previously being a brothel , the audience can tell immediately how this film is about ones duty against their desires. 

Despite the hints within the set design , what sells the temptation and hellish lust within the plot is the lighting. Where the beginning of the play starts off with natural lighting along with a peaceful atmosphere , as the film continues lighting gets more dramatic and brings more depth to the scenes , with intense shadows and harsh red lighting the scenes almost seem theatrical. The red hues used for lighting also help push the idea of the devil because red is most assossiated with danger , sex and the devil. 

“Kehr suggests that "Black Narcissus" should be taken with the historical context of Britain bidding farewell to their fading empire, and indeed that is an interesting point of view.” – Ebert (2010) In historical context this could be true . Where the nuns wave goodbye to their faith and become something new. Where they go through the demons , which in Britains case is a war and sometime succumb to them ,however, by the end they end up triumphant. Although , in Black Narcissus case the triumph could be that they leave their faith and in turn learn to love and step out of their comfort. However, one can argue that the demons are still there through experience and how the experience has affected how one views the world.although , that could be said about the Empire as well. 

“But I like to view it as a film ahead of its time, daring enough to look puritanical figures that are in truth as frail as anyone; confronting their demons and the burdens of reality. It has all of the three central conflicts every story should have, man against the world, man against man, and man against himself.” – Ebert (2010)

Following how this film conveys the theme of possession and danger, along with the theatrical lighting; the costume design also sets the role of the characters very well, where one is the villain the other the hero is concerned. Especially during the scene where Sister Ruth and Sister Clodagh sit at the table and have a face off during the night. The audience can clearly see where Clodagh is clad in white and Ruth is dressed up in a scantily red dress, darkened brunette hair and painted red lips. The close up when she paints her lips also gives the audience a sense of seduction and sexiness, especially when the colour red is used, this again is because of colour theory where red is associated with sex and lust. Also the reddish hue around her eyes gives Ruth an exhausted look and along with the performance Kathleen Byron gave where Ruth always looks in a crazed daze and like she is plotting your murder, the pair together give off a demonic aura.

Bibliography :

Fig 1 ,(1947) [Screengrab] (Accessed 23/11/15) :

Ebert,R (2010) Black Narcissus :

1 comment:

  1. Almost there with the referencing after the quote Sarah - both the name and the year should be inside the brackets, so (Ebert, 2010) for example.

    I still think you can be a bit more generous with your use of images... you could have used an image of the vast 'Himalayan' landscape when talking about the matte painting for example. You should also label and caption your images, so for example, 'Figure 2, Sister Ruth and Sister Clodagh '. This is then directly referenced in the Illustrations list, which should be separate from the bibliography.