The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

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Inside sleeve of Steve's video

I Know Where I'm Going (1945)

Steve's Video Cover (Connoisseur)

[back cover]

I Know Where I'm Going!
Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. With Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown, John Laurie, Finlay Currie. Great Britain 1945.

Joan (Wendy Hiller) has known what she wanted since childhood. Now she's about to marry a millionaire, but a storm strands her on a Hebridean island and the forces of nature conspire to change her mind. With it's 'overpowering sense of place' (Dilys Powell) and stunning special effects, this most personal of The Archer's great films is also one of their most perfect.

'Full of well-integrate symbols and lyrically shot in monochrome by Erwin Hillier, it's all quite beautiful, combining romance, comedy, suspense and a sense of the supernatural to winning effect.' Geoff Andrew, Time Out

'I had reached the point of thinking there were no more masterpieces left to discover, until I saw I Know Where I'm Going! What moved me was its illustration of love laced with mysticism.' Martin Scorsese

[Inside Cover - left]

I Know Where I'm Going!

According to anecdote, I Know Where I'm Going! was born of necessity. With Technicolor facilities in scarce supply, The Archers faced a delay on starting A Matter of Life and Death. What could be made quickly and in black and white, Powell asked Pressburger? The answer was something about a girl who can't go ahead with her materialistic marriage plans. Why can't she? Pressburger's response was to draft a script in four days - 'it burst out, you couldn't hold it back'.

The result is one of the most lyrical and heartfelt of all The Archers' films: a film that continues their 'crusade against materialism' begun with A Canterbury Tale but which also integrates Powell's feel for the poetry of place with Pressburger's sense of moral structure. We must be wary, however, of deducing respective contributions: Powell claimed that it was his partner who restrained his ambition to stress the mythic elements of the situation.

Modern admirers - including Martin Scorsese, who recalls seeing it first and being 'overwhelmed' on the night before he started shooting Raging Bull - have stressed its sophistication as a love story which correlates the mythic with the modern. But the film also deserves to be seen in its topical context. Joan's fiancé, the magnate Sir Robert, remains a crackling voice on the radio, while the man who patiently introduces her to the mysteries of the Islands is a naval officer on leave (later revealed to be the Laird) who is obliged to rent his birthright to 'the rich man'. The feeling that many had profited from the war at the expense of those away on active service was already widespread by the time of the film's release in October 1945, and although never stated explicitly, the triangle of Joan, Torquil and Sir Robert gives new point to the traditional theme of rich and poor rival suitors.

Even more effectively than A Canterbury Tale, 1 Know Where I'm Going! succeeds in spinning a web of myth and evocative symbolism around its central search for self-discovery. Scenes like the Campbell's ceilidh, where Torquil translates a Gaelic song to Joan, 'You're the one for me', and the eerily-lit bedroom where Joan first admits her doubts about the marriage to Sir Robert, have a rare cinematic intensity which achieves the 'magic' sought, especially, by Pressburger. A fable of the age-old opposition between head and heart becomes almost a parable of post-war optimism. Joan and Torquil emerge purified from the perils and tests they have endured, like lovers from a latter-day Magic Flute.

Ian Christie

[Inside Cover - right]

The Archers: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger jointly signed all fourteen of the films they made together between 1943 and 1956. The Archers, as their company and partnership was called, also embraced regular associates. The aim was 'to gather such a stupendous team of technicians and craftsmen that they're all contributing and you only control it, like Lermontov in The Red Shoes.' More like Kozintsev and Trauberg than the Taviani brothers, in practice Powell directed and Pressburger wrote, while they shared production duties.

Michael Powell (1905-90) grew up in Kent and became a film enthusiast while still a schoolboy at Dulwich College. In 1925 his father found him a humble job with Rex lngram's MGM unit based near Nice, where he gained valuable experience before becoming a journeyman director in Britain at the start of the sound era. The Edge of the World, shot on location in the Shetlands in 1936, attracted Korda's attention and led to his pairing with Pressburger on The Spy in Black (1939).

Emeric [Imre] Pressburger (1902-88) was born in Miskolcz in Hungary, but received much of his education in Germany. He entered the script department of UFA in 1928 and contributed to a string of musicals and comedies, before the Nazi takeover in 1933 forced him to emigrate. After two precarious years in Paris, he moved to London, where the Hungarian Korda gave him a start. After he and Powell discovered their affinity while adapting The Spy in Black, they went on to devise Contraband(1940) and the ingeniously propagandist 49th Parallel(1941), for which Pressburger won an Academy Award.

Together they created some of the most original British films of the 40s and 50s, notably the wartime series comprising One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), /Know Where I'm Going!(1945) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). They continued to exploit Technicolor and a vein of metaphysical melodrama in Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) before crisis in the British film industry forced them into compromised co-productions, although The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) marked their boldest experiment in stylisation. The partnership lapsed after the mid-50s, with Powell pursuing a solo career and Pressburger turning eventually to novel writing. The late 70s, however, saw the first in a continuing series of restorations and revivals of their films which led to widespread critical revaluation.

Black and White, 92 minutes approx.

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