Det Hændte i Skotland
The second Powell and Pressburger installment on the list is “I Know where I’m Going!”, a romantic comedy from 1945. As some may recall the first installment was “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”, a grand and colorful story of almost epic scope. “I Know where I’m Going!” is almost the opposite. This is a much smaller and simpler story in a much cheaper format. That however I will not hold against it. Some of the best movies are good exactly because they focus their attention on a narrow subject.
For better or worse “I Know where I’m Going!” is a rom-com. That means it is light and enjoyable, but sadly without depth and substance. That goes with the territory. We follow Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller), an English city girl, who has set her teeth in Sir Robert Bellinger, a rich industrialist, evidently for the money. A lot of fuzz is made of that she is a very determined person who aims to get what she wants. Unfortunately the grand prize resides on a remote Scottish island by the name Kiloran, so to marry this guy Joan must travel practically to the end of the world and certainly far outside her comfort zone.
Her voyage is halted at the last stage as bad weather prevents the boat from crossing the sound to the island for several days. Instead Joan is stuck with a bunch of quaint and lively Scotchmen and women and of course a potential romantic interest.
That is basically it. 20 minutes in we know how this is going to end. The tone and style means that this can only end one way and there is not even a twist to that end.
That does not mean this is a bad film. It is highly enjoyable because of these same Scotsmen and women. They are portrayed as a tough lot with free spirits, big hearts and cunning ways. Men and women who have adapted to a life with limited resources and brutal elements by creating their own space. In a sense this entire movie is a love letter to Scotland with just enough saltwater to prevent it from getting too saccharine.
There is Catriona, the self-sufficient huntress, Colonel Barnstable, the enthusiastic Falconeer, Ruairidh Mhór, the tough boatman plus a bunch of revelers at a local céilidh (party-wake). Each one with a straight forward honesty, which is at odds with the gold digger from Manchester.
Among these jolly natives we find Torquil MacNeil, the nominal lord of Kiloran, played by the Welsh Roger Livesey. He is a navy officer on leave trying to get home to his island and stuck by the weather same way as Joan Webster. It is Sir Robert Bellinger who has rented the manor on Kiloran from Torquil MacNeil and Toquil live off the rent. In other words he is penniless (sort of), but with a noble name and heritage. How romantic.
While the beautiful Scottish surroundings and the charming natives are a definite boon to the film, the opposite can be said of Livesey and Hiller’s characters. It is almost too obvious that Torquil is supposed to be the romantic interest here and he is hitting on her right from first sight. He is just a little too close to her, a leaning a little too far in her direction and showing her a bit too much attention for it to be comfortable. Considering she is on her way to her own wedding he is showing quite a bit of impudence, so when she finally runs away from him, it is objectively difficult to say if it is her feelings or his attention she is trying to escape. Well, the context does not leave us in any doubt there, but if I were in Joan’s shoes I would feel it rather uncomfortable.
If Torquil is mildly annoying then Joan is a real pain. She is supposed to be a fish out of the water, I understand that, but she is really going out of her way to be obnoxious. There is something in her attitude that just rubs me the wrong way and it is not so much her gold digging as it is her superior air and blatant selfishness. The last we see in full exposure when she insists on going to the island in the gale although everybody refuse and warns against it. She will take no advice, thread or pleading, but sends the boatman’s son on a suicide mission for lousy 20£. We of course have to understand that she is tempted to break the engagement and instead run off with Torquil and if she does not get over to that island pronto she will not be able to control herself. Fine. But really, this does not make her look good. She is being stupid and incredibly selfish and endangering other people’s lives. Minus 200 points to Joan Webster.
But this is a rom-com and I suppose this sort of drama is necessary. On the up-side it gives us an amazing boat ride in the gale and a gorgeous view of the Corryvreckan whirlpool. That is a site I here on the spot have decided that I must see.
While researching for the review I stumbled on a curious anecdote. While a lot of the movie is filmed on location in Scotland, the male lead Roger Livesey never left London. He could not leave London because of some West-end play he was doing, so his parts were all filmed in the Denham studio. In Scotland they used a stand-in and only filmed him from a distance. It is so cleverly done and works so seamlessly that I would not have guessed it.
“I Know Where I’m Going!“ is light and easy entertainment for Sunday afternoon. I would recommend it for anybody with a penchant for Scotland and for that awesome whirlpool.