Black Narcissus is a 3-part psychological drama mini-series based on the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden and the 1947 film adaptation of the same name. This FX series is essentially a remake of the 1947 film.
The basic premise of Black Narcissus involves four nuns who, led by Sister Clodagh (Gemma Arterton), are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas to turn an old palace into a school and hospital. Things go wrong when the nuns find their beliefs challenged by the new environment and its inhabitants.
Set in the 1930s, the limited series explores the age old theme of culture clash and the conflict between spirituality and carnality. Unlike the novel and the film, this series attempts to imbed supernatural horror elements into the narrative. However, this deviation from the source material is not sufficiently developed to be effective and the end result is rather weak.
Which is a pity as the plot elements of the original story are strong enough to justify a more visceral and dramatic retelling, especially in more liberal times. Also, this series fails to take advantage of the doubling of the screen time to either develop characters or expand story details to create an intriguing tale. What we get instead is a tepid story that is neither scary or disturbing in any way.
Which begs the question why a remake was even considered viable if no attempt was made to improve on the original, or at least convincingly depart from the source material. If supernatural elements were thought to be a good addition, then why was that not pursued ferociously, instead of this half-hearted attempt.
While it is clear that the writers wanted to build on what had been depicted on page and screen previously, there was neither will or creativity to make things work. Again, Black Narcissus here seems like a lost opportunity. Watch the classic 1947 film instead.
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