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TV Guide review

I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)

Wendy Hiller gives an ebullient and charming performance as a headstrong young British woman in I Know Where I'm Going!, a mystical, lyrical romance by the great writer-producer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, known as The Archers.

Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller), 25, has always been a determined young lady who knows exactly what she wants out of life. She announces to her father (George Carney) that she's engaged to Sir Robert Bellinger (Norman Shelley), the elderly owner of the chemical plant where she works, and one of the richest men in England. The two are to be married on the Scottish island of Kiloran in the Hebrides, which Bellinger has rented. Joan travels to the Isle of Mull, where she's supposed to catch a boat to Kiloran, but a storm prevents her from leaving, and she's forced to stay in the on the mainland. There, she meets a young naval officer on leave named Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), who's also trying to get to Kiloran, and the two of them spend the night at the home of one of Torquil's friends. In the morning, the storm has lifted, but heavy gale warnings prevent Joan from leaving. She and Torquil spend the day together, and Torquil shows her a castle which he refuses to enter, because it supposedly has a curse on his family. He tells her that, in fact, he is the "Laird" of Kiloran and that Robert Bellinger is renting his home.

Later, Joan speaks to Bellinger over a short-wave radio, and he tells her to stay at the castle of a business associate of his until the storm lifts. She does so, and that night they all go to see a "Ceilidh," an ancient Highland song and dance ritual, in celebration of a couple's 60th-wedding anniversary. The next day, the wind is still blowing too strong for a boat trip to Kiloran, but Joan gives a young islander named Kenny (Murdo Morrison) £20 to take her. Torquil tries to talk Kenny out of it, but he needs the money to get married, and Torquil and Joan have a big fight over it. When Joan refuses to back down, Torquil decides to go with her, and they're all almost killed in a giant whirlpool. They return to the mainland, and the next day, the weather is all clear. Joan kisses Torquil goodbye and Torquil goes inside the forbidden castle, despite the curse on it. He reads a plaque which states that if ever a MacNeil should enter the castle, he shall never leave it a free man. Just then, he hears bagpipes playing and sees Joan returning. They embrace and proclaim their love for each other.

One of the most low-key of all the great Archers productions, I Know Where I'm Going! is an absolute delight from beginning to end, flawlessly combining romance, comedy, fantasy, and folklore to create a unique style that can only be described as "magical realism." The clever, storybook-style opening credits show Joan as she ages from one, to five, to 12, to 18 years old, and announce the film as a fairytale for grown-ups. The train trip contains a knockout dream-sequence montage: a choir sings the title song to the rhythm of the churning train wheels; Joan imagines herself being married to the machines inside Consolidated Chemical Industries, and a miniature train travels through tartan-covered cloth mountains. Once Joan reaches the Isle of Mull, the previously hectic pace slows down to reflect the mellow mood of the Hebrides, and Joan's rigid facade begins to crack. The sensuous natural beauty of the Scottish countryside, along with elements of mysticism (the ancient curse), and the supernatural (Torquil's advice about making wishes come true by counting the beams in your bedroom), begin to take over her well-ordered existence, gradually making her realize that there are more important things in life than money.

Hiller brilliantly captures Joan's intelligence and determination without turning her into a stereotype, and makes her transformation totally believable. Roger Livesey, who appeared in many of the Powell-Pressburger films as a sort of spiritual alter-ego, is excellent as Torquil, although amazingly, all of his exterior scenes were filmed with a double, since he was unavailable when the company went to Scotland. The rest of the cast is amusingly filled with the usual assortment of Archers eccentrics, most notably Captain C.W.R. Knight as the falconer Colonel Barnstaple, and a pre-teen Petula Clark. Erwin Hillier's superb, high-contrast photography creates some stunning romantic images and awesome sights, such as the blanket of black mist swirling across the sea, and the incredible shot of the tiny boat about to be swallowed up by the whirlpool. I Know Where I'm Going! is a beautiful film about the profound effects of nature on people, and the fact that the universe can be a wondrous and magical place if one keeps oneself open to its vast mysteries. (Adult situations.)

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