South Ruislip – Black Narcissus (1947)

Black Narcissus (1947) | South Ruislip

Another Sabu starrer (briefly, a Northolt resident while making ‘The Elephant Boy‘ at South Harrow) this time with Deborah Kerr, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons and Kathleen Byron.

Powell and Pressberger’s film about tormented desire in a nunnery high in the Himalayas, released only a few months before Indian independence, has a subliminal post-colonial subtext. With the British presence declining, The Old General who rules the valley has become a yogic hermit while the Young General who will inherit (Sabu) wears ‘Black Narcissus’ perfume from the Army and Navy store in London. He asks Kerr’s nun, who’s also his teacher: “Oh Sister, don’t you think it’s rather common to smell of ourselves?”

Critic Dave Kehr has said the final scenes – nuns abandoning their building and leaving via mountain passes – could have been interpreted by British viewers as “a last farewell to their fading empire […] a respectful, rational retreat from something that England never owned and never understood”.