Home > Movies, Reviews (Movies) > [Review] Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947)

[Review] Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947)

Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Nuns. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.

I cannot forgive the righteous contempt for faith, but I can watch this Powell/Pressburger on infinite repeat and admire the magnificent colors and, above all, the sex. Hitchcock once said that he wished one could play a love scene from across the room. He mused that the only way it could be done was through stripping. Strange, because surely Hitch would have seen Black Narcissus and witnessed the brutal repression, so potent that the screen should be sweating.

By sticking one hawt male into a colony of helpless nuns, we watch them struggle (and, in some cases, succumb) with forbidden senses. The color, composition and lighting lend to an intense modernity. In fact, the color is almost certainly heightened to encourage the emotional density, the hidden arousal. Tight tight tight close-ups emphasize changing ideologies and suggestive glances, especially in a remarkable display of rapid triangle editing. Fades and flashbacks are inserted into prayer, furthering the theme of repressed sexuality and its destruction of faith, if we weren’t already sure of it.

Black Narcissus is a shallow narrative. The characters have unclear motivations other than needing some pleasure and women are depicted as pathetic, incapable of mastering their own desires. But the film has become an infinitely intriguing study of sexual liberation in the presence of faith and what repression just might do to the weak mind of women.


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