Screening of Black Narcissus (1947), Monday the 4th of November, 6-8pm, the Lupino

Ahead of Paul Mazey’s research seminar on choral music in 1940s British films on the 6th of November (please see the previous post), Black Narcissus (Powell and Pressburger, 1947, 102 mins) will be screened on campus. This will take place on Monday the 4th of November, 6-8pm, in the Lupino.

Frequent collaborators director Michael Powell and writer Emeric Pressburger  adapted Black Narcissus from Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel about a group of nuns who set up a school and hospital in the Himalayas.  Members of the cloistered, and isolated, female community (played by Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Flora Robson et al) face traumatic pasts, present struggles, and uncertain futures. These suffering women speak to the core of melodrama. In addition, these women’s religious training means that they repress their feelings, though these inevitably bubble to the surface. Such a structure closely relates to the rhythm often seen in melodrama. Godden’s narrative is afforded additional power by film, as images and sounds contribute effectively to its claustrophobic atmosphere and its ratcheting up of tensions.

The BBC is currently producing Black Narcissus as a Television mini-series. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) describes this as an adaptation of the 1947 film, rather than Godden’s novel. This indicates not just the narrative’s continued relevance, but the impact of  Powell and Pressburger’s Technicolor film.

The film  is being screened by the Lupino Film Club, part of the Film, Media and Culture Research Group.  The Lupino Film Club screens films every Monday night, starting at 6pm. More information about upcoming films can be found on the research group’s blog:


The sceenings are free and open to all.


Research Seminar: Paul Mazey on ‘Choral Music in British Cinema 1930s-1950s’, Weds 6th November, 5-7pm, GLT2

Unfortunately we have yet to arrange regular screenings for the term, but we hope many will be able to attend the following exciting event.

We are delighted to be welcoming back Paul Mazey from the University of Bristol. He’ll be delivering a research seminar on Wednesday the 6th of November from 5-7pm. This will take place in Grimond Lecture Theatre 2.

The following blurb is from the School of Arts events calendar (excluding the disturbing Kathleen Byron GIF…) :

Choral voices are a recurring feature on the scores of British films of the 1930s to 1950s, where they conjure the sense of an ethereal presence that intervenes in the human world. This presentation considers how the choral voices heard in British cinema draw upon the tradition of British choral music, in light of their repeated use by composers whose work outside of the film industry includes choral writing, notably William Walton, Brian Easdale and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In particular, it explores examples of choral voices used as a wordless sonority. Wordless voices, freed from religious specificity, are able to project a broader and more inclusive mystical feeling. By analysing their use in such key films as Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger, 1947), Scott of the Antarctic (Charles Frend, 1948) and Gone to Earth (Powell & Pressburger, 1950), this talk will consider the ways that choral voices are used to imbue natural forces with an aura of intention that heightens their influence on characters’ lives and suggests the workings of otherworldly powers.

Paul Mazey is an Associate Teacher of film and television at the University of Bristol. His forthcoming publications include a monograph on musical traditions in British film music, a journal article on the use of opera arias in British comedy films and a chapter (co-authored with Sarah Street) on the piano in melodrama for an edited collection.

After the research seminar, if you would like to join a gathering for dinner, please email Tamar Jeffers McDonald at

Everyone welcome.

We hope to see you there!