|The Films of Petula Clark|
Released October 1945
Drama/Romance- 92 minutes
Stubborn, spoilt Joan Webster journeys north to marry wealthy Sir Robert Bellinger on the Scottish island of Kiloran, but a thick fog prevents her from leaving the mainland. Naval Lieutenant Torquil MacNeil suggests she spend the night at the house of his friend Catriona Potts. Next day the fog is replaced by a fierce gale, which again prevents a crossing. Torquil and Joan move to the Tobermory Hotel, on the way passing Castle Moy to which entry is forbidden to the Lairds of Kiloran by an ancient curse on the family. Torquil admits he is the penniless owner of Kiloran, forced to rent the island to Bellinger in order to pay the bills.
Still marooned, the pair attend a wedding anniversary ceilidh where it becomes clear that Torquil is in love with Joan, who, for the first time, is unsure of her feelings. She bribes young Kenny to take to sea in appalling weather but Torquil - concerned for Kenny's safety - takes command of the boat himself and by his skill and strength saves them from being lost in the treacherous Corryvreckan whirlpool. Next day, Joan finally sets off for Kiloran as Torquil enters the forbidden Castle Moy. He learns the true nature of the legend as Joan returns to fulfil the prophesy: any MacNeil who enters shall not leave there a free man, but be chained to a woman for the rest of his days.
--James Kendrick - Q Network
Roger Livesey ...........
George Carney ...........
Captain MacKenzie ......
Captain of 'Lochinvar'
| FILM NOTES: |
"I know where I'm going!" declares the headstrong protagonist Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller). And she does. At only 25, she knows exactly where she's going as she heads off to an isolated island off the western coast of Scotland in order to marry an extremely wealthy industrialist. However, as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's charming comedy of love and fate makes clear, just because you know where you're going doesn't mean you're going to end up there.
For the majority of the narrative in I Know Where I'm Going!, Joan is stranded in a small, Scottish coastal town as troublesome weather makes it impossible for her to cross the small stretch of ocean to get the island of Kiloran where her marriage is supposed to take place. At first, the problem is fog, and when Joan prays for winds to blow the fog away, she is answered with gale-force winds that further impede her journey.
Stranded along with her is Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a British naval officer on week's leave. Joan and Torquil make an unlikely pair, as he is generally polite and reserved, while she is brash and assured. Joan is a complex heroine in that, from the start, it is obvious that she is something of a gold digger. She never seems to act as if she is in love with the much-older man she plans on marrying (in fact, the movie makes sure that we never see them together, and we never see him at all, only hear his voice on a radio). The opening montage shows us Joan's development from infancy, while a comical narrator tells us how, from the time she was born, she knew where she was going (these early scenes have the dizzying rhythm and pace of a screwball comedy). Determination and self-reliance are what fortify her ambition, and Joan is so sure about herself that it takes her several days in Torquil's company to realize that she may be headed down the wrong path.
I Know Where I'm Going was the fifth film Powell and Pressburger wrote, produced, and directed together, and it shows them at the top of their form. Using the simple genre of the romantic comedy, they turn a few conventions on their heads while still filling the story with the requisite warmth and charm. After the first 10 minutes, the entire film is set in the mist-enshrouded Scottish highlands, which would seem an unlikely setting for a romantic comedy. Powell had a special affinity for Scotland, and it shows in the film's careful compositions and elegant photography. Stylistically, the film changes as the narrative progresses, starting off with jokey dissolve shots (such as one where a man's top hat dissolves into the steam-spewing stack of a locomotive) and bizarre dream sequences that gradually give way to the naturalistic splendor of the Scottish moors.
Cinematographer Erwin Hillier (who also shot Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale) gives I Know Where I'm Going a distinct visual texture that sets it apart. (The film was shot in black and white because Powell and Pressburger were waiting to get access to Technicolor cameras so they could make A Matter of Life and Death). The rough terrain and somber skies play counter to the lighter romantic elements of the story, while simultaneously enhancing the story's more mythical elements, such as an ancient curse that was supposedly put on a local castle that forbids Torquil from entering. The film climaxes in a spectacular action sequence that finds Joan and Torquil trapped on stormy seas and about to be sucked into a giant whirlpool created by the currents between two islands. This climax might feel oddly placed had it not been set up so well earlier in the film and nourished by its mythical undertones.
Like all of Powell and Pressburger's films, I Know Where I'm Going is a technical delight, mixing location photography with studio sets, trick photography, and a skilled use of doubles (although he appears to walk through the Scottish highlands in several scenes, Roger Livesey never shot a single scene outside of a soundstage). They also get great performances from their leads, especially Wendy Hiller (Pygmalion) who maintains Joan's spirited, but obstinate, personality with charm and grace (the role was originally intended for Deborah Kerr). Roger Livesey, who had played the lead role in Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), proves to be every bit her equal, with a solid performance as Torquil, a role that easily could have been a bore (it's always hard to play a nice guy and keep him interesting).
I Know Where I'm Going is an irresistibly charming film, one that is brimming with sly humor, gentle romance, and that wonderful sense of humanity and decency that was one of the hallmarks of Powell and Pressburger's films. Its deceptive simplicity is perhaps its greatest virtue.
--James Kendrick - Q Network