Cinematography of Black Narcissus

Cinematography of Black Narcissus



31 Days of Oscar Blogathon 2016

31 Days of Oscar, Week 3: THE CRAFTS

TODAY i talk about The Cinematography of Black Narcissus for 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon as today for the crafts part of 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon as Its oscars talk time again. Today as part of 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon which today is hosted by Once Upon a Screen,Outspoken and Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. So as all taking part today are talking about the crafts which is  Music, Costumes, Cinematography, Writing ,etc. Thanks to the wonderful hosts for today’s event and check out others.

So today I will talk about Cinematography of Black Narcissus.

A group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas. The climate in the region is hostile and the nuns are housed in an odd old palace. They work to establish a school and a hospital, but slowly their focus shifts. Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) falls for a government worker, Mr. Dean (David Farrar), and begins to question her vow of celibacy. As Sister Ruth obsesses over Mr. Dean, Sister Clodagh becomes immersed in her own memories of love.(plot off wiki)

It is the most erotic film that I have ever made wrote Michael Powell of Black Narcissus. “It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image. e Roman Catholic Church, through its Legion of Decency, deemed it a mortal sin for any member of the religion to view the film. It was rated “C” for “condemned” until a few minutes of footage were edited out. After the ban was lifted, it did very well at the box office in the United States and won two Oscars as this movie truly did become a classic as later it had its scenes added again today it is a considered a masterpiece. It is peopled by amazing characters acted by every amazing talents.

The film is hauntingly beautiful, and for good reason. Firstly, the film set a new technical benchmark for Technicolor cinematography, building on Powell (and Pressburger’s) previous work in the form The Thief of Bagdad (1940), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and A Matter of Life and Death. Color was used to amp up erotic nature.

The Cinematography of Black Narcissus has such wonders to it. It is like a finely crafted painting. Its erotic creates such emotional depths to it. The emotion of the pictures is really told by the colors its  Cinematography as the nuns emotional depths truly comes to life due to its lovely Technicolor cinematography.

Principal photography for Black Narcissus took place at Pinewood Studios between May 16 and August 22, 1946 as they were tasked with of creating the Himalayas on stages and back lots. He made extensive use of huge canvas backdrops, painted with vibrant Himalayan landscapes. The backdrops, which naturally hid the actual English countryside, were tilted back at a 35 degree angle to eliminate shadows and soak up as much of the sun as possible, allowing for more hours of shooting time. Broader vistas, including the shots which establish the precarious cliff-side setting of the palace, were accomplished in post-production with glass shots and matte paintings.

The matte paintings like in thief of baghdad are considered some of the finest use of it.   Broader vistas was created via its matte paintings and its cliff-side setting of the palace was crafted out with a matte painting. vibrant Himalayan landscapes was recreated under the paintings.


Junge was a German production designer who worked for UFA from the early-mid 1920s up until the 1930s when he moved to Britain and worked at Gaumont-British, and later for MGM on their British productions. In 1939, he went to the Archers studio to do work on Contraband, one of Powell/Pressburger’s first spy thrillers and enjoyed the experience so much that he created sets for the next eight Powell/Pressburger films.  Its set designs was some of cinema’s finest.

The scaffolding holding up the Palace of Mopu as one of the sets. Its sets alongside with Matte paintings are a technique that are no longer being used in the film industry but during the 1940s-1970s were used extensively in science fiction films and “on location” movies. The technique is quite simple and just involves placing a large sheet of glass between the camera and the scene being filmed. This glass is then painted with the view needed crafted out many of the scenes of the Himalayas.

Matte paintings and painted backdrops provided the views of the Himalayas and clever filming angles by Jack Cardiff helped convince the audience that it was really crafted out.

 If one looks at the matte painting fondly you see the nature of depth captured by the painting of it on a matte on a glass of such crafted out many of the layers of the scenes. Huge cycloramas surrounding the Palace set at Pinewood were painted with mountain scenery and tilted at an angle in order to be lit by natural sunlight. Many of the other backdrops used in Black Narcissus were enlarged black and white photographs which the scenic artists color tinted with pastel chalks. It gave the film a marvelously exotic coloring. Jack Cardiff was a great admirer of 17th century Dutch painter Vermeer and created the color palette and lighting of Black Narcissus to evoke the sense of a fine painting by erotic nature.

A miniature model of the convent was filmed for the opening shots to save on costs, while the interior shots and the grounds directly outside of the convent were filmed on the Palace set.

Junge was a great sketch artist. It was a talent that was very fondly loved by Michael Powell who greatly appreciated his talent in bringing the atmosphere of a picture to life on paper, months before production even began as a result many of his sketches worked so great that they helped craft out this gem of a movie. You can see how accurately the final film resembled his initial sketches.

Leonardslee gardens, once belonging to a retired colonial army officer, served as the valley below Mopu during the scenes involving Sabu in Black Narcissus. Alfred Junge was never one to let any detail slip by as each was carefully crafted out. It shows in the final movie how effort this movie had in its depth of work form set deign to music to Cinematography to its wonderful acting with rich characters and landscapes it really is such a gem. Deborah Kerr gave him an autographed photo of herself with the inscription, ” To Alfred Junge, of all art directors the most brilliant We won’t disagree with Ms. Kerr as this shows how much of a masterpiece this movie truly is. Black Narcissus is a masterpiece that stands out as something truly special for the ages. black_narcissus_blu-ray_gardening1

one of my favorite actresses – the wonderful and hugely talented Deborah Kerr.
In my opinion, she has always been the epitome of a true Hollywood star -classy, elegant, gracious, charismatic, endearing and such a versatile actress. She took on so many different roles throughout her career and played them to perfection. It’s still unbelievable to me that she never won an Oscar. I recommend you check out her brilliant performances in ‘Tea and Sympathy’, ‘The Innocents’, ‘The Journey’, ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘The Sundowners’, ‘Separate Tables’, ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘From Here to Eternity’.

Thanks so much to the host today as was a joy to talk this movie in such rich depth. I was loving to write this today as a joy to talk about Deborah Kerr. Be sure to check out Black Narcissus’


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