In Netflix’s ‘Sister Death,’ we follow the story of a young Sister Narcisa who arrives in an old convent that now serves as a school for young girls in the hopes of doing something good for the community. She is also trying to leave behind her past, even though she is celebrated for it, and suffers from dilemmas and questions about her faith. In between this, she also experiences a sinister presence in the convent, which leads her on a path that changes her forever. Despite it being a horror film, ‘Sister Death’ exhibits a sense of realism which makes the viewers wonder if there is a shred of truth in this story or if the lead character is inspired by a real-life person. Here’s what you need to know about the inspiration.
Sister Narcisa’s Origin Story is Inspired by a Real Event
‘Sister Death’ begins with the footage of a young girl who is hailed after seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Young Narcisa becomes a “holy girl,” and even when she stops seeing apparitions, this label follows her into adult life. Director Paco Plaza was inspired by a real event that took place in the early 60s to add this detail to Narcisa’s story.
The opening scene in the movie refers to the Garabandal apparitions, where four young girls claimed to have seen Saint Michael the Archangel and the Virgin Mary. These visions are said to have continued from 1961 to 1965 in a community in Cantabria, Spain. It is a well-known event in the country, and when Plaza heard about it years ago, it left a lasting impact on him. He referenced the photographs from that time to create the opening footage of ‘Sister Death. “Of all the apparitions, these are my favorites. The photographs from the time with the girls with their necks turned up and walking backward are fascinating. They are my favorite psychics,” he said.
Another thing that caught Plaza’s attention about the case was the retraction from one of the girls years after the incident. Apparently, one of the four girls revealed that she wasn’t sure what they really saw back then. “This woman said that she did not know if it was something they invented when they were little, but a circus was set up around it…and that had a big impact on me. To think that a girl has been singled out her entire life because she has seen the Virgin when she was six or seven years old,” the director said, explaining how it inspired him to add a similar doubt in Narcisa’s mind, who starts to question whether she actually saw the apparition, if she made it up, or if it wasn’t Virgin Mary but something else entirely.
Considering all this, it is clear that Paco Plaza was heavily influenced by this real-life event. However, he didn’t entirely rely on it to sketch Narcisa’s character and her story, most of which takes place in the convent. It’s safe to say that Narcisa is a fictional character that has roots in reality to give her more credence with the viewers rather than be dismissed as yet another haunted character in a horror film.
How Sister Narcisa Got the Name Sister Death
The character of Sister Death first appeared in Paco Plaza’s 2017 film, ‘Veronica.’ The children call Sister Narcisa Sister Death, and at one point, she confesses she prefers that name. The character plays a small part in helping Veronica figure out what went wrong in the seance she conducted with her friends. The film was inspired by a real case (the 1991 Vallecas case of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro), but the character of the nun was a fictional addition, much like most of the film.
Plaza named the nun Narcisa after actor-director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, but the title of Sister Death is bestowed on her by the children in the school. Sister Narcisa is blind and has a whiteness to her eyes that gives her an eerie look. She also comes off as a bit weird to children because they feel like she can still them, even when she is supposed to be blind. This spooky vibe from the nun leads them to name her Sister Death, which she not only takes into stride but also accepts with some humor.
In ‘Veronica,’ she mentions that she did it to herself. In ‘Sister Death,’ it is revealed that she went blind after looking at the eclipse with naked eyes. At least, that’s the superficial explanation. In a deeper excavation of what really happened to her, Sister Narcisa actually sees another apparition, which shows her the horrible things that happened in the convent during and after the Civil War. While she loses her sight following this vision, she realizes that she doesn’t necessarily need eyes to see some things. She can still see and sense supernatural things, which is why perhaps she finds it apt to receive the name Sister Death.