I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)


And thanks to the formula, so do we...
And thanks to the formula, so do we...

Genre: Drama Romance (UK)

Starring: Wendy Hiller (The Elephant ManPygmalion), Roger Livesey (The Life and Death of Colonel BlimpThe League of Gentlemen)

Directed By: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (The Red ShoesBlack Narcissus)

Overview: On a remote island, on the way to meet her rich fiancée and get married, the harsh weather leaves a driven woman in the company of a young soldier.

There's nothing I appreciate more than watching a movie I've heard absolutely nothing about. Rarely it even happens that I don’t know the genre or see the poster. I Know Where I'm Going! is exactly that sort of film. I love just jumping in blind and seeing what comes of it. Alas, I’m finding that these eagerly-sought unheard-of productions just consistently don’t have Squish appeal. From the beginning, I Know Where I'm Going! leaps out as a stiff British production. We open with a laborious narrator, pickle stuffed deep in his brooding orifice, declaring that our heroine, Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) “knows where she's going!” We follow her from a hoity silk-stocking-seeking childhood into an even more ambitious tight-shouldered gold digging adulthood. That title, I Know Where I'm Going!, is heavily hammered in as a theme at the start. The narrator repeats it, Joan says it to her father, it’s even sung as background music while this lass heads off to the remote Scottish isle of Kiloran to marry an ancient rich man.

The driven Joan Webster has dreams of living the high life, even if her industrialist fiancée, Sir Robert Bellinger, needs help getting around. When she arrives to the Scottish isle of Mull, she charters a boat to get to her husband-to-be, but bad fog delays her travel. She takes a room at the inn where she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a soldier on leave who is also heading to Kiloran. The next day the fog is blown away but high winds turn to gale-force and Joan is left to continue waiting out her travel on this quaint island, constantly running into an obviously interested Torquil. From here it’s easy to Know Where The Plot Is Going, though the trip there is admittedly original. In short, it's a charming tale of a Gaelic society living the old ways, singing and piping and dancing and living their culture and Jesus Christ it's tedious.

I guess they're good-looking, for a couple of stiffs.
I guess they're good-looking, for a couple of stiffs.

Production-wise, rear projection and the use of models for boats and trains shows off its era in a terrible way. Unfortunately too, so many of the characters are identical to one another: a pile of stiff upper-crust fops in varying degrees of dustiness, whether a hoity-proper gold digger or Colonel Barnstaple (C.W.R. Knight), an obvious caricature of what Torquil will be like in 30 years, this one sporting a falcon on his wrist. Everything aside, I Know Where I'm Going! looks all too much like it was a play intended for the stage. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t. There’s a hint of a touch of the supernatural with the legend of the whirlpool and the cursed Kiloran castle, but these don’t carry the film out of its stagey English 40s-ness. With three terrific shots and one-and-a-half great scenes and so much rear projection that you'll be getting two movies for the price of one, the somewhat-exciting finale doesn’t quite provide a payoff for what has come before. Dated to the point of being stuffy, anyone under 40 who can’t forgive obvious studio effect will most likely have trouble accepting I Know Where I'm Going! for what it is.

*Sigh*, at least the castles were nice.

At least SOME shots aren't filmed in a studio.
At least SOME shots aren't filmed in a studio.

Performance: 6 Cinematography: 5 Script: 7 Plot: 5 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 58% (Not Worth The Trip)

I worry that Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes will be just like this, but not as much as I worry that my hopefully high expectations of Black Narcissus just might not be met.

Thinking of other films Gaelic, I’ve got to recommend watching Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in 2011’s comedy, The Guard.

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Unlike you, evidently, I really like Livesey as an actor because I feel like he's the epitome of classy British guys from the 1940s. But I'm with you on this film. Stiff, boring, and arrogant are the watchwords for this one, and Joan is singularly unpleasant.


I still say Torquil should've run off with Catriona and let Joan marry the old dude. That's a happy ending I can get behind. 

Worry not about The Red Shoes or Black Narcissus; Powell and Pressburger (or rather, Jack Cardiff) give some of the most gorgeous color cinematography of their era in both, so the film should at least be watchable for that alone. I personally loved Black Narcissus, and absolutely adored The Red Shoes, so I'm eager to see what you think about either one.

Being a Powell/Pressburger diehard fan I honestly say that I Know Where I'm Going is the one I had the worst time with. Every other movie they made is just pure bliss! I suggest you keep with their films because this one might not be the one you should have started with... Black Narcissus is extraordinary. The Red Shoes is a masterpiece of technicolor. The Life and Death of Col. Blimp is awesome and A Matter of Life and Death is very inspiring and inspired.

Great review Squish!

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