Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger do not have the household name status that they should have obtained. The films that they made together as the “Archers” are acclaimed throughout the world, but today many of their film are overlooked. The “Archers’” films are unique and easily identifiable because somehow they are able to bring touching and emotional stories to the screen with a technical skill that seems unsurpassed by many of their contemporaries.
I have had the fortunate pleasure of seeing some of their films, but recently I ran across one that I had not seen, their 1945 romantic drama I Know Where I’m Going. Unlike my previous experiences with The “Archers” and their films, I was surprised by this whimsical film and the ease with which it was presented. Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) plays a headstrong woman who has lived her entire life marching along her seemingly preordained lifeline. Ever since she was young, Joan seems ready to be an adult and make the “right” decisions for herself. As this film begins she is about to travel from London to the Herbrides, off the west coast of Scotland, in order to marry an extremely wealthy industrialist who is old enough to be her father. The journey is long and every stop along the way seems to have more foreboding weather than the last. The final leg of her journey is a small boat trip from the Isle of Mull to the island of Kiloran. The weather has grown increasingly worse and she is informed that she will have to stay the night here and wait for the bad weather to cease.
A British Navel officer on leave, Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), who was also supposed to make the trip across to Kiloran, takes Joan to the home of a local woman, Catriona (Pamela Brown), where they can stay the night. Of course the bad weather continues for days, and Joan and Torquil spend plenty of time together discovering their abundance of differences as well as unleashing a love that neither of them was even aware could exist within themselves. Scared by this new spark in her life, Joan is willing to do anything to avoid destroying the plans she has had in place for her life, ever since she was a child. All of her emotions come to a breaking point, and she is forced to decide between what her mind has always planned for her and what her heart is trying to tell her.
I Know Where I’m Going is a drastically different film from the other “Archer” films I have seen in the past. Where movies like Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) are extremely dramatic and overwhelmingly intense, I Know Where I’m Going creeps up on its viewers slowly, allowing them to become engrossed in the characters and the setting, without an abundance of suspense or tension. Emeric Pressburger has said that the story and screenplay flowed completely naturally, and therefore he was able to complete the writing process in just one week. The story certainly does flow nicely, and at times things seem to be moving along almost too effortlessly.
It is not the kind of romance that has an instantaneous lightning bolt hit both characters, but rather the type of story where they actually fall in love because of a deep-rooted commonality that unites them. So often the movie world presents love stories as being “love at first sight” scenarios, and it is refreshing to see two characters become connected not through an instant attraction or even a physical connection, but rather an emotional bond that magnetizes them towards each other.
As always in an “Archer” movie, the acting is superb. Small, seemingly unimportant characters are strengthened by perfect supporting players, with an overwhelming desire to perform to the best of their respective abilities. The leading actors in this film strive to go even beyond this, and make their characters feel like people we have known and loved all of our lives.
Wendy Hiller, in particular, demonstrates her natural grace and charm on the screen. She always preferred stage acting to screen acting, and I must admit that I am sorry she felt this way. Her other roles in films like Separate Tables (1957), A Man For All Seasons (1966) and Murder On The Orient Express (1974) have left me wishing she had devoted more of her career to films, in order to give future generations (i.e. me) more opportunities to see her vividness at work.
I Know Where I’m Going is a delightful film that shows the power of true love in an unusual and dreamlike atmosphere. The “Archers” knew exactly how to sweep the audience into their fantastic world just long enough to escape the realities of the outside world, and enjoy a true and lasting love story.Back to Home for More Reviews