Black Narcissus

Synopsis: Sister Clodagh, currently posted at the Convent of the Order of the Servants of Mary in Calcutta, has just been appointed the Sister Superior of the St. Faith convent, making her the youngest sister superior in the order. The appointment is despite the reservations of the Reverend Mother who believes Sister Clodagh not ready for such an assignment, especially because of its isolated location. The convent will be a new one located in the mountainside Palace of Mopu in the Himalayas, and is only possible through the donation by General Todo Rai of Mopu - "The Old General" - of the palace, where the Old General's father formerly kept his concubines. On the Old General's directive, the convent is to provide schooling to the children and young women, and general dispensary services to all native residents who live in the valley below the palace. Accompanying Sister Clodagh will be four of the other nuns, each chosen for a specific reason: Sister Briony for her strength, Sister Phillipa who
Genre: Drama
Production: Universal International Pictur
  Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
101 min

Sita, go and tell Sister Clodagh

I wish to speak to her.

Therefore, X is equal to 5...

- or minus- - Reverend Mother wishes

to speak to you, Sister Clodagh.


Continue the lesson.

Sister Clodagh,

we may proceed

with our plans at Mopu.

- It will be called Saint Faith.

- Saint Faith.

And you have been appointed

to take charge of St. Faith.

- I, Reverend Mother?

- You.

You will be the youngest

sister superior in our order.

Thank you, Reverend Mother.

The agent at Mopu

is an Englishman.

He seems a difficult man.

You won't get

much help from him.

Dear Madam, My name is Dean.

I am the agent

of General Toda Rai at Mopu...

and I am writing to you

in that capacity.

I understand the general has offered you

the old palace at Mopu...

to make a school and

a dispensary for the natives.

It's not the first time

he's had such ideas.

He's asked me to tell you

about the place and the people.

It's not a comfortable spot,

and it's at the back of beyond.

First you have to get

to Darjeeling,

then I have to find you ponies

and porters to take you into the hills.

Mopu is 8,000 feet up.

The peaks on the range opposite

are nearly as high as Everest.

The people call the highest peak

Nanga Dalle.

It means "the bare goddess. "

I live down in the valley,

out of the wind.

So does the general,

and so do the people.

Mopu Palace stands in the wind

on a shelf on the mountain.

It was built by the general's

father, to keep his women there.

It's called a palace, but there

may be a slight difference...

between your idea of a palace

and the general's.

Anyhow, there it is.

The people are like mountain peasants

everywhere- simple, independent.

They work because they must,

they smile when they feel like it...

and they're no respecters

of persons.

The men are men- no better,

no worse than anywhere else.

The women are women.

The children, children.

Up on the mountain above the

palace, we have our holy man...

who sits there day in

and day out in all weathers.

All the people around

are very proud of him...

and bring him food

and little offerings.

The wind up at the palace

blows seven days a week,

so if you must come,

bring some warm things with you.

Nobody has lived there for

a long time, except Angu Ayah...

who's always been there

and stays on as caretaker.

As a caretaker,

she's a bit of a failure,

but she's a faithful, dirty old

bird and goes with the place.

She lives there alone...

with the ghosts of bygone days.

Ayah! Ayah! Ayah! Ayah!

Ayah! Ayah! Ayah!

Ayah! Ayah! Ayah!

Ayah! Ayah!


Ayah! Ayah!

- That's Mr. Dean.

- Never mind Mr. Dean. He'll find us.

Now listen, Ayah.

I have invited some ladies...

to stay here

at the house of women.

Ladies! Oh, that will be

like old times!

It will not be in the least

like old times.

They are not

that kind of lady at all.

- Then they won't be any fun.

- They are not coming for fun.

These are nuns.

Do you know what a nun is?

They kneel and pray all day like

the monks you invited last year.

I'm going to give them this house to make

a school and a hospital for the people.

You know nobody here

wants a school...

and I'm sure they

don't want a hospital!

How do they know what they want

until they try?

The people have

all kinds of diseases.

- They have ringworm.

- They don't mind having ringworm.

Then they ought to mind.

And it will all be free.

It was free last time,

and nobody came.

They will this time.

Mr. Dean!

You will receive them for me,

and you will do everything for them

that they want doing.

You too. You will

engage servants for them,

and you will both look after them until

they care to look after themselves.

What do they eat?

How do I know what nuns eat?

I have remembered that.

Do you see that crate?


They will eat sausages.

Europeans eat sausages

wherever they go.

They will eat them when they come and until

they can cook what else they want to eat.

Now remember, Ayah,

if you give any trouble,

you will be sorry.

I'm sorry now!

A convent in this house.

What do you think of that?

The brothers only stayed

five months.

Perhaps the sisters

won't stay long, either.

The house is 9,000 feet up-

very cold, but good air.

General Toda Rai, who has invited us

to Mopu, has promised us every help.

He was a little afraid

when he learned...

that we are bound to our order

only by yearly vows.

- I explained this rule to him.

- Yes, Reverend Mother.

For more than a century,

to serve voluntarily...

has been one of the glories

of our order.

And our greatest strength.


He understands now.

- Is there anything you would like to ask?

- Who am I to take with me?

Remember, a community

is not a class of girls.

The sisters won't be easy

to manage or to impress.

Now, let me see.

I'll give you Sister Briony.

You'll need her strength.

Thank you, Reverend Mother.

Sister Philippa for the garden.

- Sister Blanche.

- Sister Blanche?

- You know what the others call her?

- Sister Honey.

Yes, Honey. I think

you'll need Sister Honey.

She's popular,

and you'll need to be popular.

- And Sister Ruth.

- But Sister Ruth is ill.

That is why I want her to go.

Forgive me for saying so,

Reverend Mother,

but do you think our

vocation is her vocation?

Yes, she's a problem.

I'm afraid she'll be

a problem for you too.

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Rumer Godden

Margaret Rumer Godden OBE (10 December 1907 – 8 November 1998) was an English author of more than 60 fiction and nonfiction books written under the name of Rumer Godden. Nine of her works have been made into films, most notably Black Narcissus in 1947. A few of her works were co-written with her older sister, novelist Jon Godden, including Two Under the Indian Sun, a memoir of the Goddens' childhood in a region of India now part of Bangladesh. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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