Repression and Sublimation in Black Narcissus (1947), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), and Sea Wife (1957)
Chapter 2 analyzes the representation of Anglican missionary nuns in Black Narcissus, and argues that while these sisters have been critiqued as agents of British and Christian imperialism in India, they have not been studied as women contending with the psychosexual pressures of the celibate religious life. The visually stunning flashbacks in this Powell and Pressburger film reveal the turbulent desires hidden beneath the veil; demonstrate the dangers of the emotional repression of sexuality; trace an emergent counter dynamics of sublimation; and elevate erotic memories into flashes of spiritual illumination. This chapter goes on to suggest how Deborah Kerr's fire-and-ice screen image embodies the tensions of sexual repression, attraction, and sublimation that are examined not only in Black Narcissus, but less successfully, in two later 1957 films, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Sea Wife.
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