I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)

I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

"I reached the point of thinking there were no more masterpieces to discover, until I saw I Know Where I'm Going!" -- Martin Scorsese.

This is one of my desert island movies: a wry, imaginative and good humored romance in the western isles of Scotland during the last year of WW2. I can watch it endlessly. Great landscapes, falconry, wolfhounds, parties, singing and dancing, a family curse, storms at sea, deadly whirlpools (Corryvreckan, a real place) and desperate survival at sea.

Joan (Wendy Hiller) is trying to get to her wedding on a remote island and is impeded by bad weather of various types. We never meet the groom, who is much older and the richest man in England, a chemical industrialist who sounds drunk over the radio. Joan never mentions love; she seems to be a genteel gold-digger and dreams of credit and flying banknotes on the train.

Torquil (Roger Livesey) is a naval officer on brief leave to visit his home, the same small island where he is the charming and happy laird. Stranded with Joan he falls in love and tries everything to divert her from her plans. He shows her around and talks up the place he loves, introducing her to all sorts of local eccentrics and taking her to a grand party where they dance all night. He argues with her and abuses her and even risks dying with her in her wicked and foolish gambit to get to the island, in the end saving her life.

Still no good. He has one last weapon: he invokes the ancient family curse, "a terrible strong curse." It works, and we have a happy ending.

The background story is almost as interesting as the romance. The area is not as prosperous as it once was: "they're all dead or in New Zealand." The big old houses are rented out to English summer visitors and the shabby gentry and cash poor locals get by as best they can. We see many subtle clashes of class and culture between the old and new, the locals and the visitors.

The picture belongs to Hiller and Livesey; I'll see them in anything. Pamela Brown and Finlay Currie are notable supporting characters, and watch young Petulia Clark as the precocious little girl who has to put up with her irritating parents. The hilarious Col. Barnstaple was played by real life falconer Capt. C.W.R. Knight.

I was astounded to discover that Roger Livesey went nowhere near Scotland when making the film. Rewatching I can see it now.

Seriously: don't miss this one.

Criterion DVD. Commentary track and loads of extras.