"I've never seen a picture which smelled of the wind and rain in quite this way nor one which so beautifully exploited the kind of scenery people actually live with, rather than the kind which is commercialised as a show place." – Raymond Chandler
This year it is the 69th anniversary of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's romantic film, I Know Where I'm Going and the BBC is celebrating the milestone by showing the film on BBC 2 and a documentary about the making of the feature. I don't actually own a TV but I do have access to BBC IPlayer so I can watch programmes after they have been broadcast without having to buy a TV licence. (for all of those you who live outside of the UK - in Britain you need a licence to watch 'live' TV).
Anyway I jumped at the chance to watch this film again. I actually already own it on DVD and have seen it a million times, but I love it. Like Casablanca, it is a classic, albeit less well known. The film tells the story of a young woman called Joan Webster (played by the lovely and lively Wendy Hiller), who thinks she knows exactly where her life is headed and has everything planned out for her future down to the minute detail. She is ambitious and independent and has decided that the best thing for her future is to marry a much older industrialist, Sir Robert Bellinger who has rented a small Scottish Island for them to get married on. As she travels up to the island to meet and marry him, she encounters bad weather and is forced to remain on the Island of Mull while she waits for the ferry to take across the bay her to her fiancé on his own little island. While on the Isle of Mull, she encounters the Scottish community and is immersed in their values, which are very different from her own. She meets several local people as well as the local Laird Torquil MacNeil (played by Roger Livesey, who I was surprised to recognise from The Palliser TV series that he starred in many years later) and his free-spirited friend Catriona. As Joan finds herself becoming more attracted to Torquil and the no-nonsense and down-to-earth people of Scotland, she struggles with the weather and constant storms that seem to be against her and her own ambition and thirst for wealth, that she begins to suspect will not lead to her happiness.
Torquil MacNeil: She wouldn't see a pound note from one pensions day to another.
Joan Webster: People around here are very poor I suppose.
Torquil MacNeil: Not poor, they just haven't got money.
Joan Webster: It's the same thing.
Torquil MacNeil: Oh no, it's something quite different.
|The wonderful Wendy Hiller flashing one of her intense looks at the camera|
You can guess what happens next. Of course she falls in love with Torquil, as he does with her. But being proud, fiercely independent and probably a little scared of emotion and sentiment, Joan is determined to get to the island across the bay and even goes so far as to bribe a young boatman to take her out on to the sea during a particularly bad storm. It is an extremely nasty thing to do, because she knows the boatman desperately needs the money in order to marry his childhood sweetheart and that taking the boat out in such conditions will alienate his father who is a fisherman and potentially end up getting him and Joan drowned. Ah, the course to true love never did run smooth!
|Sailing on stormy seas|
|Obviously the entire cast could use a good old fashioned cup of tea while they wait for the storm to pass|
And then there is all the scenery, which will make you want to book a holiday in Scotland immediately and the stormy scenes of the sea that are so well filmed and majestically portrayed that you can almost taste the salt spray on your lips. There are also delightfully written ironic scenes such as the three pipers that were hired for Joan's wedding but cannot make it to the island because of bad weather, playing instead at a party during which Joan dances with Torquil and falls even more in love with him. Or the scene where Torquil and Joan overhear locals chatting about the absurd and pretentious actions of her fiancé, Sir Roger - acting like he owns a Scottish island rather than the tenant that he is, building a swimming pool on his island rather than swimming in the sea, buying salmon rather than fishing from the streams on the island that are prolific with wild fish. All the while Joan fights against her doubt over her impending marriage to Sir Roger.
|Torquil uses the positioning of a ladder to get close to Joan. Most crafty use of a ladder EVER!|
The lyrics to the song are:
I know where I'm going
And I know who's going with me
I know who I love
And the dear knows who I'll marry.
....all of which is ironic, because Joan does not know where she is going and who she is going to love or marry.
|Torquil tries to keep Joan on the Isle of Mull and away from the unpleasant death of drowning, while they both sport rather fashionable weather-proof clothing.|
But then it is fashionable nowadays for film reviewers to find a dark subversive side to every movie. And indeed a lot of films and TV series do have a cynicism to them that I think was not so fashionable in the films of yesteryear. I love this sweet little film and I could gladly watch it over and over again.