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Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Know Where I'm Going!

It being Valentine's Day I thought I'd watch a movie appropriate for the day. Glenn Kenny of the New York Times wrote an article proposing some choices that were streaming, and I picked I Know Where I'm Going! (the British love titles in the first person and with exclamation points), an early film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was an interesting film, that slowly built to a powerful climax.

The film stars Wendy Hiller as a woman who has always known what she wants and goes and gets it. In droll British humor, she is shown doing that in her early life, even as a baby crawling straight forward. By the age of twenty-five she's working at a large chemical company, and has managed to snare the owner, whom she will marry on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides.

When she gets to the isle of Mull, she's stuck because of the weather. She meets Torquill McNeil (Roger Livesey), who happens to be the laird of the island (he's leasing it to her fiance). As she waits out a gale, she becomes immersed in the local citizens, who have far different values than her--money isn't everything to them. She realizes she's falling for Livesey and has to get across to that island, even if it means risking her life.

I'm a sucker for remote islands, and have always wanted to visit the Hebrides, so I was fascinated. Powell and Pressburger make interesting visual choices. For instance, a five or so minute montage of Hiller traveling from one train to another to a boat is brilliant, including a transition from a stovepipe hat to a train engine.

Though shot in black and white, I Know Where I'm Going! has some stunning photography. It was shot on location, and includes real places like Corrywhacken, a large whirlpool, and Moy Castle, where Livesey can't go in because any laird to crosses its threshold is cursed.

What is best about the film, though, is how it treats the residents. Many films about Scots or Irish have them as some twinkly creatures like leprechauns. To be sure, we get the full treatment, including a "calleigh," where there is much singing and dancing (this scene is expertly edited). But they are also real people with real problems and don't possess any magic. But they do teach Hiller a lesson.

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