Black Narcissus (1947) dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
A nun should practice celibacy and acknowledge natural lust – “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But weak flesh conflicts with Sister Clodagh’s titular narcissistic vision of herself. She imagines that someone deserving of the Sister Superior title is above base temptation. So, she represses her attraction to Mr. Dean and becomes enraged when it is pointed out.
This isn’t the only thing about herself Sister Clodagh represses. She shuts out any memory of her past, and becomes distressed when she thinks of her home and family for what she claims is the first time in years. She strives for indentitylessness.
The holy man on the mountain provides a contrast to Sister Clodagh. He has been there for a generation, while she barely lasts until the next rain. Her asceticism fails where his succeeds. She’s too busy denying herself to deny herself.
Black Narcissus is #146 on the Top 1000 Films list I’m working on. I’ve now seen 364.