Saturday, 28 April 2018

Review #1,329: 'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945)

Legendary directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are best known for their glorious Technicolor achievements. Their impressive careers delivered the likes of The Thief of BagdadThe Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman, all sumptuous and sweeping pictures that now feel way ahead of their time. Earlier in their careers, they were also responsible for 'smaller' films set in and around Powell's native Britain (Pressburger was born in Austria-Hungary but died in the country he spent most of his working life in). One such film, from 1945, is I Know Where I'm Going!, a charming little romantic drama set on the Scottish Hebrides.

Ambitious and headstrong young Englishwoman Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) has known how her life will pan out ever since she was a little girl. Much to the concern of her father (George Carney), she is to marry wealthy, and much older, industrialist Sir Robert Bellinger, who owns a lavish home on the remote island of Kiloran. When she arrives by boat on a nearby island, the area is so thick with fog that to complete the last leg of her journey would be an impossible and life-threatening task. As a result, Joan is forced to wait for better weather on the Isle of Mull, where she meets handsome young naval officer Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), who is on shore leave and also trying to make it to Kiloran. The weather doesn't improve, and the more time Joan spends with her new acquaintance, the more torn she becomes between ambition and love.

Powell and Pressburger made films in colour prior to 1945, but I Know Where I'm Going! isn't any less visually inspiring due to being shot in black-and-white. Cinematographer Erwin Hillier (who had worked with the directors on A Canterbury Tale) captures the Hebrides as a cold, unforgiving part of the world, lashed by constant rain storms and its inhabitants threatened by a nearby whirlpool. Yet it's also serene, untouched by the modern world, albeit invaded by unwanted rich folk. Of course, it's all a metaphor for Joan's emotions, as she decides between the calmer, gentler lands on which she currently walks or braving the dark, dangerous unknown. She claims to know just where she's going, but does her heart tell her otherwise? Events won't surprise you, but you'll be swept up in the film's flow and sentiment nevertheless. Hiller and Livesey form an attractive couple with plenty of chemistry, and Hillier's camera will have you swooning over the locations.

Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, George Carney, Pamela Brown, Finlay Currie
Country: UK

Rating: ****

Tom Gillespie

'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945) on IMDb

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