A story about nuns setting up a school and hospital in the Himalayas? Yes, it sounds dreadful.
But when the nuns meet up with the tanned, hunky government official, who happens to be wearing a chest-baring shirt and short shorts, you know something’s going to go down.
BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), from awarding-winning director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is absolutely delicious to watch (with gorgeous cinematography by Jack Cardiff). What makes this film so much fun to show for an at-home movie night is that it’s serious, melodramatic, nonsensical, and thrilling all at the same time.
The drama ensues on the grounds of an improbable and imposing monastery perched on the edge of a 9,000-foot cliff. To add to the intrigue, we find out that the monastery previously housed the king’s concubines in secret, sensually painted rooms, which are now guarded by a mad woman.
It turns out that the monastery itself becomes one of the most formidable characters driving the story forward. In addition to the monastery, the stellar cast also includes Deborah Kerr as the conflicted sister, David Farrar as the hot guy in town, Kathleen Byron as the mad-as-a-hatter nun, and Jean Simmons and Sabu as the weirdly matched young local couple.
When I first heard the name of the film, I didn’t get it, given that my knowledge of horticulture is sorely lacking. I came to learn that Black Narcissus is a flower, known for its intoxicating scent and also its potential toxicity. I don’t think the name of this film would ever get through a marketing department these days because of its abstractness, but now I can’t imagine the film with any other title.
Promotions for BLACK NARCISSUS proclaimed: “Drama at the top of the world … where winds of the exotic past sweep men and women to strange and fascinating adventure…” The language is as over the top as the film, which is available on Criterion Blu-ray (with engaging extra features).
I always love themed Home Projectionist events, and the setting of this film gives a big range opportunities for Himalayan hosting.
Foodwise, I would just order carry out from a local Himalayan restaurant (because I probably wouldn’t find yak or goat at my local grocery and I really do love goat.) But nonetheless, there are less exotic options available if you’re inclined to follow recipes. For starters, check out authentic and easy recipes at Nepali Food.
If you’re still not sure you can convince your company that a movie about nuns is a must-see, you can send ’round the YouTube clip below with your invitations.