Black Narcissus is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning cinematic glory. Their 1947 film is a richly layered psychological melodrama that manages to engage through the visuals more than the script.
What makes Black Narcissus special is Jack Cardiff’s luscious Academy Award winning cinematography. The Technicolor film looks like a moving canvas from the Renaissance Period. It’s one of the best uses of light, shade and colour ever to be committed to celluloid. You can almost see the oil paint dripping from the screen. Assisting in Cardiff’s work is the splendid matte painting that the film utilises to create the impressive Himalayan vistas. It’s mind-boggling to think that it was all filmed within the confines of a studio lot and even more impressive when you consider that it was done in 1947. Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus is an impressive cinematic feat and a technical marvel.
Therefore it takes a lot of guts to make make another adaption of Rumer Godden’s 1939 book – but that just what BBC and FX have done. Here’s the trailer for the three-part limited series adaptation of Black Narcissus starring Gemma Arterton, Alessandro Nivola, Aisling Franciosi, Jim Broadbent, Rosie Cavaliero, Gina McKee and the late Diana Rigg.