I Know Where I’m Going! Powell and Pressburger’s Romantic Drama, Starring Wendy Hiller

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger directed I Know Where I’m Going!, a romantic drama starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey.

Raymond Chandler observed: “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 commercialized as a show place.” And indeed, the settings are crucial to the tale and its characters.

This was the second and last collaboration between the co-directors and cinematographer Erwin Hillier, who made invaluable contribution to make the physical landscape integral to the story’s evolution.

Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller), a middle-class Englishwoman with an ambitious and independent spirit, thinks she knows where she’s going. She travels from her Manchester home to the Hebrides to marry Sir Robert Bellinger, a wealthy, older industrialist, on the (fictitious) Isle of Kiloran.

When bad weather postpones the final leg of her journey (the boat trip to Kiloran), she is forced to wait it out on the Isle of Mull, among a community of people whose values are quite different. While there, she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer trying to go home to Kiloran. They are sheltered for the night in the home of Torquil’s friend, Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown).

The next day, they come upon the ruins of Moy Castle. Joan wants to take a look inside, but Torquil refuses to go in. When she reminds him that the terrible curse associated with it only applies to the laird of Kiloran, Torquil introduces himself: he is the laird, and Bellinger has only leased his island.

In Achnacroish, Joan is surprised to re-encounter Torquil, who feigns not to know her in the presence of others. They attend a ceilidh celebrating one of the workers’ diamond wedding anniversary (the Campbells). The pipers at the ceilidh are there by default as they are also trapped en route to Kiloran and were to play at Joan’s wedding.

To salvage her plans, Joan tries to persuade Ruairidh Mhór (Finlay Currie) to take her to Kiloran, who knows the conditions are dangerous. Joan then bribes young Kenny (Murdo Morrison) into attempting it by offering him £20, enough money to buy a half-share in Ruairidh’s boat and marry Ruairidh’s daughter Bridie (Margot Fitzsimons).

Torquil learns of the scheme and tries to talk Joan out of it, but she is adamant. After Joan has gone down to the boat, Catriona tells MacNeil that Joan is actually running away from him. He races to the quayside and invites himself aboard. En route, the boat’s engine is flooded and they are nearly caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool, but Torquil is able to restart the motor just in time and they return safely to Mull.

When the weather clears. Joan asks Torquil for a kiss before they part ways. Torquil enters Moy Castle, and the curse takes effect immediately. Centuries earlier, Torquil’s ancestor had stormed the castle to capture his unfaithful wife and her lover. He had them bound together and cast into a water-filled dungeon with only a small stone to stand on. When their strength gave out, they dragged each other into the water, but not before she placed a curse on the lairds of Kiloran.

Torquil sees Joan, accompanied by bagpipers, marching toward him. They meet in the castle, and embrace. We’re told the curse: if a MacNeil of Kiloran dares step over the threshold of Moy, he shall be chained to a woman to the end of his days, “and will die in his chains”.

In the end, Torquil and Joan walk away together along the lane.

“I Know Where I’m Going” is sung as the end credits roll.

The directors regarded this film as part of their “crusade against materialism,” a theme also manifest in their film “The Canterbury Tale,” but in a more accessible romantic comedy.

Powell and Pressburger spent weeks researching locations and decided on the Isle of Mull.

The movie was originally meant to star Deborah Kerr and James Mason but Kerr could not get out of her MGM contract, so they cast Wendy Hiller. Mason pulled out of the movie because he did not want to go on location. Roger Livesey asked to play the role, but Powell thought he was too old and portly; Livesey lost weight and lightened his hair.

Cast

Wendy Hiller as Joan Webster
Roger Livesey as Torquil MacNeil aka Kiloran
Pamela Brown as Catriona Potts
Finlay Currie as Ruairidh Mhór
George Carney as Mr Webster
Nancy Price as Mrs Crozier
Catherine Lacey as Mrs Robinson

Credits:

Directed, produced, and written by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Music by Allan Gray

Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Edited by John Seabourne Sr.
Production company: The Archers
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK); Universal (USA)
Release date: November 16, 1945 (UK); August 9, 1947 (US)
Running time: 88 minutes

Note:

TCM showed the movie on May 26, 2020.