Black Narcissus: Film Review

Directed by: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
Staring: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Jean Simmons, David Farrar 
Year of Release: 1947

Fig. 1

For this film review I shall be taking a major interest in the color palette and the matte painting.The use of matte painting and the detail within them help to bring life into the world of the travelling nuns often times portraying impossible heights and over the top grandeur in its wide angle landscapes. 
Fig. 2
"where once wine flowed and harem ladies cavorted, is a brilliant achievement in color composition."  - The New York Times, 1947
The thought of building being built literally on the edge of a cliff evokes a sort of fantastical feeling from the viewer setting us up for the general mood of story of something being just on the edge of possibility with a hint of the fantastical.
Fig. 3

The image above serves to display the masterful use of colour throughout the film as the blues and whites shown on the character show the purity and goodness against the reds of the background, a colour often associated with evil and madness to display those characteristics in the world that she was currently living in. It also serves to show how she was the only the only one who seemed to be a warrior of the light as the more chaotic the world around her became the more she strived to fight for the goodness within the other characters.
Likewise figure 4 serves to display the nuns corruption and how the dark side had taken over her heart and soul. 

         "The use of red is feverish and is as effective and foreboding as Nicholas Roeg's"                           - Roger Ebert, 2010

Fig. 4

"Powell icily builds tension with unmerciful scenarios, but his camerawork is some of the most empathic in cinema; his perspective-oriented angles and fluid, slight dollies evince a loyal concern for what and how his characters are thinking and feeling" - Slant Magazine, 2012

Within the image above the large majority is bathed in deep reds and oranges these show the current crazed, lustful, and enraged mental state of the nun and how she was no longer associated with the Light.
fig. 4

In a sort of StarWars sith corruption type of way the image above helps to show the nuns slow corruption process as throughout the movie she seemingly drains oflife force yet more and more of her becomes red

Image List:

Figure 1 -
Figure 2 -
Figure 3 -
Figure 4 -                                                                                           nvdvignettes/L600xH439/EX_BLACK_NARCISSUS_1web-7f898.jpg

(Joseph Jon Lanthier) -
(Roger Ebert, 2010) -
(Thomas M Pryor, 1947) -


  1. Hi Tumo,
    Good discussion around the use of colour to show emotion and build tension :)

    Make sure that your quotes make sense when you place them in your writing; it is good practice to introduce the quote via the author, so for example,

    'As Roger Ebert explains in his review, 'The use of red is feverish...' From this it could be said that....'

    So you introduce the quote, and then you unpick it to say why it is useful.

    Make sure also that you finish the quote in a sensible place - at the moment, the Ebert one is missing the end - 'Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now."

    Always assume that your reader knows nothing! Your last paragraph, for example, you mention 'StarWars sith corruption type of way'... what does this mean?? If you are mentioning other films, you need to put the name in italics, and include the date in brackets; it is also useful to include the directors name.

    Please have another look at the referencing guide to see what you need to include in your bibliography and illustrations list, and how it needs to be set out -


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