Black Narcissus (1947)

Blog / Jan 28, 2015

Sabu played a brave young general in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s colour film Black Narcissus (1947), a film adaptation of English writer Rumer Godden’s novel set in India. Other actors included Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons.

The cinematographer for Black Narcissus was British cinematographer Jack Cardiff who created fabulous dramatic effects by using red to connote passion and white and blue for traditional purity. He, along with directors Powell and Pressburger and art designer / art director Alfred Junge,wrought magic and raised British cinema to unattained heights of romance and imagination. Given unique freedomas regards color, composition and technique by Powell, Junge was inspired by the so-called ‘India of the mind’, to create stunning sets. Even today, it often comes as a surprise to realise that Black Narcissus was not shot on location in the mountains of north India, but mainly indoors in Pinewood with sets specially crafted for the film. These sets were not attempts to represent any real place or buildings. They were plastic creations of imagined realities which might partly explain Rumer Godden’s disapproval of the film. Despite this, Junge was hailed for doing more than any Englishman for building the reputation of British set design. The magical cinematography and innovative art direction in Black Narcissus won awards for both Alfred Junge and Jack Cardiff for their work.

The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project – A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)

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