Inspired by the evacuation of St. Kilda, Powell created two families who stand for the two factions of the remote island of Hirta. The Mansons want to stay and eke out a living in the traditional ways, while the Grays conclude the time has come to seek a better life on the mainland, working on the new trawlers. Andrew Gray wants to marry Ruth Manson, but fate steps in: Ruth's brother Robbie dies while racing against Andrew up to the top of the cliff.
Powell outlined a simple story as a peg on which to hang his vision of an elemental conflict between man and nature. After many attempts to interest producers over the years, Powell finally found backing from Joe Rock, an American “with a craze for exterior pictures”, for his expedition to Foula, which had been selected to represent St. Kilda. There the crew and cast spent five eventful months - including ten days cut off from all outside contact by storms - and returned with a vast footage. The film opened in 1937 to generally appreciative reviews. C.A. Lejeune hailed it as “one of the most fascinating and unusual pictures ever made by a British company”, comparing it favourably with Flaherty's documentary Man of Aran (1934).
Ian Christie (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Arrows of Desire)