(Black Narcissus) Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, GB, 1947, English version / Czech subtitles, 102 min
This 1947 psychological drama deserves an honored place in British film history not only for its exceptional camerawork (Jack Cardiff won an Oscar) but also as one of the first films with an intensely erotic charge. Rumer Godden’s novel served as the literary basis for a story about a group of English nuns who undertake a journey to a remote Himalayan village. There they attempt to convert the palace of an Oriental ruler into a hospital and a school for local children. Guided by strict rules, the community of nuns comes up against the sensuous atmosphere of the mysterious high mountain location that once served an autocratic rajah as a harem. With the emphasis on the conflict between discipline and passion, Powell and Pressburger anticipate the central theme of The Red Shoes, but in the present case involving the controversial theme of nuns’ suppressed desires, they make greater use of the mystical power of the landscape (as in I Know Where I’m Going!). Production designer Alfred Junge also won an Oscar, and he and Cardiff deserve the lion’s share of the credit for creating the illusion of breathtaking Himalayan scenery at London’s Pinewood Studios.