‘This is the story of my first love, growing up on the banks of a river’, young English writer Harriet (Patricia Walters) narrates as she starts her recollection of a childhood on the Ganges delta during the last gasp of the Raj. It could have happened anywhere, she adds, ‘but the flavour is Indian’. Shot on location in 1951, this adaptation of Rumer ‘Black Narcissus’ Godden’s semi-autobiographical novel was Renoir’s first excursion into colour – and not the least of its pleasures are visual, its gently idealised Bengal rendered in unostentatious but redolent muddy ochres and dappled greens by cinematographer Claude Renoir. The mores are those of a past age and from a spectrum of experience, from the brood who play tumbling sisters and errant nature-obsessed brother, to veteran Esmond Knight, as her affectionate jute-factory manager father. The acting may now seem creaky, but the feelings, thoughts and emotions are only too real. It was a transitional film for Renoir; freed from an unhappy Hollywood sojourn, you sense a requickened experimentalism and neorealist influence in his interweaving of documentary-style and dramatic footage. It’s a slight story that details the 14-year-old narrator and her two rivals’ reaction to the appearance of a dashing but melancholy war veteran – but it encompasses the whole cycle of life and is told with a stoic wisdom and simplicity that’s as beautiful as it is moving.
|Release date:||Friday February 17 2006|
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Rumer Godden, Jean Renoir|
Thomas E Breen