11/25/2014

Film Review - Black Narcissus

(Fig.1)

Black Narcissus

Release Date - 1947
Director - Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger.
Genre - Melodrama, Drama.

This deeply emotionally drama is about a group of nuns, lead by Sister Clodagh instructed by her order to oversee the establishment of a new school and hospital in the high Himalayas where the local General has offered the use of a deserted palace, which was briefly home to a monastery, but originally built as a home for the dead General's concubines.

With its innovative use of colour and the bold internal tensions that beset the characters, many critics consider Black Narcissus to be one of the finest and earliest examples of eroticism in film. Powell states "It is the most erotic film that i have ever made", "It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image, from beginning to the end." (Powell,1947)

In Black Narcissus the setting is essential for establishing this atmosphere of conflict. The entire film was shot in Pinewood Studios in England, which means that the sets were the work of an artistic genius. So many of the scenes are so stunningly beautiful and magnificent, it is hard to believe that the film is not shot on location. Which is why matte design is so great (fig.2) example of matte painting, how the set actually looked, One of the people responsible for these matte paintings is W. Percy Day, considered one of the originators of the use of modern matte painting.

It's said that Powell and Pressburger passed up the opportunity to film on location, instead they got help from art director Alfred Junge an cinematographer Jack Cardiff, to invent a believable landscape. 

 The great duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (together known as The Archers) shot their classic dark melodrama mostly on British studio sets, and the film's very falseness, the matte-painting vanishing perspectives and harshly exaggerated lighting creates a psychologically charged space in which an ungodly tragedy can unfold. Not to mention the bold use of colour (fig.3) below a more vibrant natural place, above where the nuns now reside a more harsh dull, unnatural, adding to the whole contrast of the film. Even the nun's clothing is conflicted by the environment, Dann Maloney mentions that it may be to prepare the audience for all the more subtle confections in the film " With their heavy, plain, white robes, the nuns look like they belong in Medieval Europe, certainly not in modern South Asia. They are immediately in conflict with the physical setting preparing the audience for the subtler internal conflicts that will follow." (Maloney, 2014) Almost everything in this film is conflicting with one another already we spoke about the colour and character but even the architecture "Powell contrasts the boxy interiors and blank walls of the British colonial offices with the curved, multi-leveled, spatially indefinite chambers of the old palace." (Kehr, 2001)



(Fig.2)
On set before matte painting.

(Fig.3)
Matte painting and shown use of colour contrast.



Bibliography - 

Kehr, Dave (2001) "Black Narcissus (1947)'
In: http://www.criterion.com 29.01.01 [online]
At: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/94-black-narcissus (Accessed on the 25.11.14)

Maloney, Dann (2014) 'Black Narcissus (1947)'
In: http://theartofilm.blogspot.co.uk  13.02.14 [Online]
At: http://theartofilm.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-dramatic-mattes-of-black-narcissus.html (Accessed on the 25.11.14)

Illustration List - 

Figure 1. Powell & Pressburger Images - Black Narcissus (1947) From: Black Narcissus. Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger [Film Poster] United Kingdom: General Film Distributors.
At: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAUQjBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.powell-pressburger.org%2FImages%2F47_BN%2FBN-Germany.jpg&ei=ZYlwVPKDPIncat2OgNgE&psig=AFQjCNEX4GwCCAM0675Iq-x4SSxj76L1VQ&ust=1416747750058763

Figure 2. BN_Behind Scenes (1947) From: Black Narcissus. Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger [Film Poster] United Kingdom: General Film Distributors.
At: http://theartofilm.blogspot.co.uk

Figure 3. BN_N_2 (1947) From: Black Narcissus. Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger [Film Poster] United Kingdom: General Film Distributors.
At: http://theartofilm.blogspot.co.uk





1 comment:

  1. Hi Becky,

    Again, as well-considered review :)

    Just a couple of things - You have a quote by Powell which does not appear to be referenced in the bibliography. It could be that this quote was taken from one of the other sources that you have referenced; if this is the case, it is called 'secondary referencing' - you can find out how to do this in the guide here
    http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/36657/Referencing-text-sources-using-the-Harvard-style

    Basically, you would say (Powell, 1947, cited in....) Also, was that actually one quote with bits taken out of the middle, or 2 separate quotes? If it is the case that it is one long quote that you have cut back, you can put it all in the same quote marks, and just use ... for the bit that is missing, so,
    "It is the most erotic film that i have ever made...It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image, from beginning to the end."

    This sentence is a little garbled, possibly because of the (fig 2) inserted in the middle, 'Which is why matte design is so great (fig.2) example of matte painting, how the set actually looked.' Sometimes it is good to say something like, 'as seen in Figure 2', so that your sentence is not disrupted too much :)

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