I Know Where I’m Going
Another of the wonderful Archers films. The character Joan Webster, intent on marrying an older, wealthy businessman, in large part because he is wealthy, tries unsuccessfully to reach the island in the Hebrides where their marriage is to take place. She is unable to reach the island as there is a major storm battering the area. Along the way, she keeps running into, and depending on, the local laird, Torquil MacNeil of Kiloran.
It is funny how many old films and plays depend on the encounter of the urban sophisticate with the natives of a more rural, traditional area, where generally the sophisticate learns something essential about life to their own benefit. “I Know Where I’m Going,” fits into this mold.
The title, “I Know Where I’m Going,” comes from a folk song with the refrain, “I know where I’m going, and I know who’s going with me, I know who I love, but the day knows who I’ll marry,” a variation on the “Man proposes, but God disposes,” theme, which gets played out in the movie.
If you have always loved the whole Hebrides, Shetlands, Aran Islands idea (as opposed to the North Sea oil reality) this is one of several movies that celebrates it. (I’m sure I’ll be writing appreciations of others, as they have been some of my favorites.) Our laird is joined on the rural side of the equation by a close woman friend, Mrs. Potts, who hunts rabbits and raises wolfhounds, a fellow who hunts with a falcon for sport and is trying to tame an eagle, others of the local impoverished gentry and common folk, bagpipers and most importantly, the owner of a boat, his daughter and her boyfriend. The boyfriend, who works for the boat owner, is cajoled and bribed by Joan into trying to cross the sea to the island so she can marry her wealthy businessman. He is only willing to help as he is desperate for money to marry the boat owner’s daughter. It is in the midst of a gale and they do not make it. The laird has gone along to help protect Joan from the consequences of her stupidity, and all three of them are almost sucked down into an infamous whirlpool. It is a recurring, and welcome, feature of the Archer’s movies that their men, like the laird here, will even brave death out of a sense of selfless duty.
If the whirlpool scene is the low point for our characters, albeit the one where the feelings of Joan for the laird become inescapable, one of the high points is when they attend a local barn dance, or ceilidh. In fact, Joan’s emotional reaction to the ceilidh is what prompts her decision to go out on the sea in the storm. You will have to watch the movie to see why. There is also a clever use of a curse that has been placed on all the lairds of Killoran, and which Torquil is not willing to risk.
The theme of the shallow, spiritual poverty of seeking after material wealth versus the joy (or even when joy is missing, the meaning) to be found in adhering to a traditional lifestyle and living life in a true community, is made clear in both dialogue and scenery. In fact, and fans of black and white photography will know what I mean, this black and white film has a great deal of “color.”
One final quote of dialogue, though I may not have remembered it perfectly:
Joan: People around here are very poor.
Torquil: Not poor, they just don’t have money.
Joan: It’s the same thing.
Torquil: Oh no, something quite different.
I Know Where I’m Going, Directed and Produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Archers), With Wendy Hiller as Joan and Roger Livesey as Torquil.