Monday, 23 November 2015

Space Oddities - Black Narcissus

The provocative psychological thriller “Black Narcissus” (1947) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a powerful study of colour composition, Film trickery and erotic symbolism. Following  five protestant nuns  setting up a convent school and hospitals for the inhabitants in the Himalayan village far below. Setting up their refuge in a Old monastery that  was once the Kublai Kahn’s pleasure dome. Erotic images line the walls glistening in gold leaf, adding to the frustrations of this odd group of missionaries who have abandoned their worldly pleasures for the devotion of their religion.  Black Narcissus is infested with sexual symbols,  from blooming flower buds to phallic objects and mannerisms. The introduction of the hero of the film further enhances the repressed sexual feelings that the nuns have, causing violence through passion.
“that the sexuality that is "repressed’ between the hero and heroine gives birth to a monster, which ‘returns’, archetypal, to attack the heroine” (B Walker)

(Fig. 01)

The Chromatic blue colour schemes at the beginning of the film give a sense of  tranquil religious peace, but as the film progresses and the feudanisms start to overwhelm the nuns, the technicolour shifts to vibrant strong colours enhancing the film to deeper places. Technicolor is stunning. The introduction of the more vibrant hues dominate the film. The use of red is feverish and is as effective and foreboding. (Roger Ebert). As the villain “Sister Ruth” succumbs to her feelings she is bathed in deep red hues that light up the scene enhancing the rage that she feels. Her mannerism also shift, as though she is possessed her movement up the stairs as she is stalking the hero, is non humanly and jerky suited to many of today’s horror films. "because she is a nun, her resurgent sexuality is rendered as a sort of demonic possession". (NY Times)

(Fig. 02)

Black Narcissus has all the atmosphere and altitude of a real Himalayan Monastery. But through cinematic trickery , Matte paintings and imported props. But the whole of this film was filmed in a studio set. Meticulous attention to detail from the production designers, a scenic film was created with the true feeling of a himulayan population. "poetic evocation of a country is created in the studio". (Roger Ebert)

(Fig. 03)



Illustration List:
•  Fig. 1.
•  Fig. 2.
•  Fig. 3.

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