2015 | 16mm to HD | 6'20" x 4 | English
To cast the role of Kanchi, the silent “beggar maid” of Black Narcissus (1947), iconic British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger conducted a nationwide search. In all, almost 1000 hopefuls applied, with over 200 girls tested and interviewed.1 The coveted role went to seventeen-year-old Jean Simmons – who had won worldwide acclaim for her performance as Estella in Great Expectations (1946). To fulfil the role, she had to wear dark Panstick make-up and a jewel in her nose to become the “exotic temptress” of Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel.2
The Kanchi character is central across all parts of the Black Matter Earth project, as she will act as a herald- like figure travelling across the three screens, from Darjeeling to Surrey to Shropshire.
The re-cast Kanchi’s modern presence offers alternative insights, to break with the often doom-laden fate of Powell and Pressburger’s female protagonists as they face their predicament.