BBC orders three-part 1930s love story drama ‘Black Narcissus’

BAFTA award-winning writer Amanda Coe is adapting Black Narcissus for the BBC.

Having previously adapted BBC Two’s Bloomsbury Group drama Life in Squares in 2015, she is now working on a three-part adaptation of Rumer Godden’s Black Narcissus.

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The English author’s iconic tale of sexual repression and forbidden love, first published in 1939, was famously made as a film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1947, starring Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons.

Coe’s series will return the haunting love story to its original setting in the 1930s, as the western colonial order is about to explode into the crisis of World War Two.

She says: “I’m thrilled to be adapting Black Narcissus for BBC One. It’s a truly extraordinary love story, as well as a brilliantly unsettling piece of 20th century gothic about the power of a place to get under your skin and the dangers of refusing to learn from history.”

Black Narcissus follows Sister Clodagh and the nuns of St Faiths, who travel to Nepal to set up a branch of their order in the remote palace of Mopu.

The official synopsis reads: “In the unfettered sensuality of the so-called House of Women, Sister Clodagh finds herself increasingly attracted to the handsome and damaged land agent, Mr Dean.

“But as the repressed memories of Clodagh’s past become entangled with the tragic history of Princess Srimati, the Nepalese princess driven to madness and suicide in the palace after her own tragic love story, history seems doomed to repeat itself.

“Are there really ghosts here in the Himalayas, or are the nuns just succumbing to long-repressed primal desires? And which of them is prepared to die – or kill – for love?”

The three 60-minute episodes will be produced by DNA Films (Far From the Madding Crowd) for BBC One.