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Wonder If We'll Ever See This Kind of Thing Again

52 Movies: Week 47 - I Know Where I'm Going


Originally, I had meant to write about another movie, but after talking about Wendy Hiller on the My Fair Lady post, I decided to write about my favorite Wendy Hiller movie, I Know Where I'm Going. The movie was filmed in black and white during the last months of World War II. The writers/directors/producers of the movie were Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who were also responsible for two other films in this series, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and One of Our Aircraft is Missing; and for the film based on Rumer Godden's novel, Black Narcissus.

Joan Webster is a young woman who from her earliest days has known what she wants from life. When she was five, she asked Father Christmas for silk stockings. She didn't get them, but that didn't stop her from keeping her eyes on her goal, and that goal was to have all the finer things in life. Now at 25, Joan is about to achieve her dreams.

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Joan invites her father to an upscale restaurant to tell him that she is engaged to an older man, Robert Bellinger, the owner of Consolidated Chemical Industries. She explains that she is leaving on a train that evening to go to the Hebrides, where she will marry Bellinger on his island, Kiloran. When Joan arrives at the train, we see that Bellinger has arranged everything for her: a private coach, an elaborate itinerary, and a lovely wedding dress. Asleep in her berth, Joan dreams of her wedding—her wedding to Consolidated Chemical Industries. You can see this rather amusing wedding beginning at 3:13 on this video.

Arriving on the Isle of Mull, she finds for the first time in her life that she has met an obstacle that she can't overcome by force of will. The fog will not permit her to get to Kiloran. At the dock, she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a young naval office with eight days of leave which he wants to spend on the Isle of Kiloran. Since they can't cross that day, and it's too late to go anywhere else, he takes her with him to the home of a friend, Mrs. Catriona (pronounced Catrina) Potts, who arrives dripping wet from hunting on the moor with a brace of rabbits, and a warm welcome for Torquil; and happy to have some female company because she, “hasn't heard any intelligent female nonsense for months.” Catriona is pretty much an image of the spirit of the islands. Life is difficult and they don't have much, but they would rather live the way they do than move elsewhere and give up the things that are really important to them.


Before they go to bed, Torquil tells Joan that if she counts the beams in her room, she will get her wish. He says it will only work on the first night in the house, and only if she believes. So Joan does count the beams and makes her wish in the form of a little prayer, “Please, Lord, don't let the wind drop, and let it blow away the fog.” And her prayer is answered, but in the way of so many fables, it isn't answered in the way she intended. Not only does the wind not drop, it strengthens into a gale.

For the next several days as the weather continues to be a problem, we are immersed in the culture of the Hebrides. We meet the people who live on the Isle of Mull and visit the ruins of an old castle, go to dinner at a grand house in Achnacroish and hear the old woman who lives there describe their wonderful balls, and attend a ceilidh celebrating the diamond wedding anniversary of a local couple, where Joan and Torquil dance away the night.

The outcome of the movie is very predictable. From almost the first moment of the movie, we have an idea of what is going to happen, and from the moment Torquil appears, we know who it is going to happen with. I'm not too worried about spoilers because I know that you know where this movie is going.

I Know Where I'm Going is a romance, but it is the best kind of romance. While there is a definite physical attraction between Joan and Torquil, there is more than that. There is an attraction to each other as people, and the relationship is full of respect and courtesy. What is more, it's not a romance that concerns two individuals isolated in their own little world, but it takes place in a community where that relationship has a place.

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All the actors play their parts very well. Wendy Hiller gives a wonderful performance. I love her face. While she doesn't have a traditional kind of beauty, she has something more. I think it's character. Nancy Price, who plays Mrs. Crozier of Achnacroish, draws the viewer completely in with her description of the big local Highland dance. There's also an appearance by 12 year old Petula Clark.

While I was trying to find a way to watch the film without waiting for a DVD (It's available on DVD from Netflix, and streaming from Amazon), I found a half hour 1994 video called I Know Where I'm Going Revisited. It begins with Martin Scorsese saying that he had just seen this film for the first time and discovered a classic. It has a lot of interesting information, but the cinematography was designed by the demons in the eighth circle of hell. Some of it is pure torture to watch.

 While the Isle of Mull is a real place, Kiloran is not, or at least, the real island isn't named Kiloran, but Colonsay. The characters in the movie never actually reach Kiloran, so it's more or less a prop in the film. From the above video I learned that many visitors still (at least in 1994) go to the Isle of Mull to visit the places in the film. The Castle of Moy which plays a part in the film is still standing, and unless things have changed in the last 22 years, you can still visit a call box along the road which Torquil uses to make reservations at the hotel where Joan will have a big room, and he will have a small one. The hotel is under new management but people still go there because they want to stay in hotel where Joan and Torquil stayed. It makes me want to get a passport.

—Janet Cupo has been commenting on this blog for about as long as it's existed, and has her own excellent blog at The Three Prayers.


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This is an excellent film. Interesting that it has this cult following--I had no idea. I actually owned a VHS copy. I picked it up maybe 15 years ago either free or for a dollar or so as a library discard. Just thought it looked interesting, and really liked it.

As y'all may know the title comes from a folk song: "I know where I'm going / And I know who's going with me / I know who I love / And the dear knows who I'll marry."

I love that song.


Going to watch that one!

Added this one to my short list. Thanks, Janet!

I rented it from amazon. I'm going to watch as soon as I've finished the task for today.

My father's middle name was Torquil (an Anglicized version of Thorkil). I always thought it was rather an exotic choice.

Isn't there an Evelyn Waugh character named Torquil? In one of the early ones maybe?

I've never heard of this movie before, but it sounds great. I've actually been to Mull, briefly, and it will be fun to see it again.

It looks like Kiloran is a village on the island of Colonsay: here.

In my 15 years in Scotland, I went to one Island - Skye. It was very beautiful. One quirk of speech was that everyone always spoke of being 'on Mull' or 'on Skye' as if it was a boat. Never 'in Skye', always 'on' it.

I always dreamed of going to the Orkneys, but not being able to drive to the NE to get the ferry it was really out of reach. Yes I could have got a very expensive train or a very long ferry ride from elsewhere, but I couldn't afford it. Its amazing to me now that I lived in Scotland for 15 years without being able to drive a car. But I couldn't have afforded to run a car for most of my time there.

When we were in Scotland, we went to Mull en route to Iona, where we stayed for a few days. From Iona we also took a little boat ride to Staffa, an uninhabited island with some amazing rock formations. That was a great day. By the end of it I was encrusted with salt water.

We didn't get to Skye, or the Orkneys, but I'd love to go back someday and see them. Scotland is a beautiful country -- and very welcoming to one named Craig. I always felt right at home!

I think it would be welcoming to someone named Janet, too.

Hope y'all like it. I think you will. It's the perfect holiday weekend film. Not fluffy and stupid, but not serious and demanding, either.


Craig, yes I mentioned it is Colonsay in the post. And the Lakers of Colonsay are named MacNeil under a variety of spellings. Like Torquil.


MacLin, Maclean, Maclin...

I was thinking about that. :-)


Seeing Wendy Hiller's name in the cast of anything, really, for me always pretty much guarantees it'll be worth watching.

Janet, should that be Black Narcissus in your first paragraph?



I changed it. When I read it I had a faint "something not right" feeling but ignored it. The dahlia is blue.

I think various relatives have traced the Maclin name to the same sources as the Maclean clan.

I watched it yesterday evening and I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed the video about Michael Powell, which I watched this morning. I looked him up on Wiki and realize I've got a checkered history with his films. I own the one where David Niven dies and goes to heaven - I believe I bought it when Mac wrote about it on here, and it's still in its cellophane box. I own Canterbury Tales, which I bought when someone raved about it in an article - I watched about half and found it dull. Likewise I somehow could not get into The Red Shoes - I think with that one I simply was not in the mood and didn't try. I'm going to retry that one. I have enjoyed One of our Aircraft is Missing (which I think Paul wrote about on here), and I also enjoyed Ill Met by Moonlight. Im going to have a shot at the David Niven one.

'I Know what I want' is a beautiful fairytale about choosing the olde ways over money. It was inspired to make Scottish lairds represent the olde ways, and have all those chaps standing around in their kilts.

Looking at a list of his work, I only see one other that I've seen: Black Narcissus. I liked that pretty well, was not knocked out by it. "where David Niven dies and goes to heaven"? I don't recognize that. Not thinking of Between Two Worlds, are you? That's the only thing I can think of, but it's not Powell (or Niven).

Perhaps I bought the wrong one. The one I have bought is called A Matter of Life and Death- in America it was called 'Stairway to Heaven'. It is directed by Powell and stars Niven. Its about an airforce man who dies and goes to the next world, I believe. That's what it says on the box.

I've got Between Two Worlds as well! I don't know where. Before I went to NYC all my DVDs were arranged in alphabetical order. I have not re-organized them since I unpacked in August.

Hmm, I don't know that Niven one at all. Sounds interesting.

You must have a lot of dvds. I don't have enough that I need to organize them, although I did recently separate the Bergmans from the ones we have here for the grandchildren. They (the local ones) have watched the Tom and Jerry collection a dozen times.

You can watch the Niven one on YouTube.


I watched A Matter of Life and Death last night and really enjoyed it. Roger Livesay (Torquil from IKWIG) has a big role in the movie, and Raymond Massey puts in a short, but important performance at the end. It's worth watching even if just for the trial at the end of the film. It makes that dreadful mistake, though, that we have seen elsewhere, i.e. it pictures the afterlife as being black-and-white, while earth is technicolor.


I saw that in the Wikipedia summary. Too bad.

Im going to watch in a couple of hours.

I'd like to join the party but I don't think I'm going to have the opportunity to watch it in the next day or two.

Somewhere-or-other, I saw a review of Arrival that mentioned that it had echoes of Walker Percy, so I've been wanting to see it. We just got back from the movie, and it's going to be one of those movies that grow as I think about it. I really wish I could go back right now and watch it again. I'm going to write about it somewhere, but I doubt that there will be room for it in this series, and I wanted to recommend it while it's still in theaters.


I've been hearing good things about it. Almost to the extent of making me consider going to see it.

Hoping to see Arrival this week. Villeneuve is a good director. I've liked everything I've seen of his so far, and he's pegged to do the Blade Runner sequel, I think.

I'll be interested to hear what you think.


I saw it about a week ago. It is definitely one of those movies you want to watch again immediately knowing what you know at the end. I did enjoy it.

Did you see it at the Crescent? I see it's still there and also at a couple of places on this side of the bay.

Yes, I did see it at the Crescent!

I came across this review at just the right time to watch over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was terrific, so enjoyable and interesting. Very different than other films of the era I've seen before.

The next day I followed up on a "also suggested" film and watched "This Happy Breed" written by Noel Coward and filmed in 1944. Also fantastic. I'm going to keep looking for films from this decade.

I've got 'I Know...' on its way to me from the library. Looking forward to it!

"I'm going to keep looking for films from this decade."

If you can find it do watch the 1948 film of 'The Winslow Boy.' It's excellent. Same with 'The Browning Version' from 1951. Both were based on Terence Ratigan plays and were directed by Anthony Asquith, who, I just discovered, did the 1939 'Pygmalion.'

Lee Ann,

I'm glad you enjoyed the film.

How DID you happen to come across the review?

Rob, I had no idea there was an early version of "The Winslow Boy."



We can probably think of many more from the period that we think are worth watching. But then, Lee Ann, you said this seemed different from other films of the period. Different how?

~~Rob, I had no idea there was an early version of "The Winslow Boy."~~

Neither did I until about a year ago. Found out about it while following up on Asquith after watching 'The Browning Version.' The DVD seems to be somewhat hard to come by -- I got it through inter-library loan (although it may be on Prime or Netflix).

I think I'd prefer the 1948 version of The Winslow Boy because then I wouldn't have to watch Rebecca Pidgeon in one of the leading roles.

I've seen The Browning Version and its good.

Me too. I don't know The Winslow Boy, though.

What's so bad about Rebecca Pidgeon? I have a music cd by someone of that name. Same person? It's pretty good, not great. I think I got it for a dollar somewhere.

Even though I saw the version with Rebecca Pidgeon, and I looked at her pictures, I still don't know who she is or what part she played.


She's David Mamet's wife and has been in most of his plays and films, I think. She's got this unbelievably wooden way of acting that I find both distracting and annoying. I'm one of those people greatly affected by the actors in something, and if they're "off" it ruins it for me. Very limiting, really. I believe she is also a singer, but I've never heard her.

In The Winslow Boy she played the boy's sister. The movie poster showing her is here.

Yep, same person. I wouldn't have recognized her from that poster, but following the link to her Wikipedia article I see she's also a singer-songwriter. The album I have is The Raven, which was her first. I can't remember why I bought it. It was cheap, a used copy, and I guess I just thought it looked interesting. Also it was on the Chesky label, which is an audiophile label.

And I just got back from seeing Arrival. It is very good, and very interesting. I won't say more as I know Rob at least is planning to see it.

Rebecca Pidgeon -- yes, her acting is very 'stagey,' as if she's appearing in a play rather than a movie. It's a little odd, and I don't find it terribly off-putting, but I can see how someone might find it so.

Arrival -- two friends have seen it, one of them a very learned Catholic priest who's a big s/f reader, and both rated it very highly.

There are a few factual things about Arrival that I'm puzzled about. I.e. questions about what actually happened. I can see why Janet wanted to watch it again immediately. Can't discuss it without committing spoilers.

I'm planning to see it tomorrow night (Thurs.)

We might need a spoilers post on this one after Rob sees it.


Yeah I was thinking that too. Maybe next week in case there are others besides Rob who might see it soon.

Saw Arrival last night as planned -- very good indeed. It struck me afterwards that three of the better s/f films of the last couple years have had both parenthood and the nature of space/time as major plot elements: Arrival, Midnight Special, and Interstellar. I've seen MS a couple times already, but watching Arrival makes me want to see Interstellar again to "compare notes." And I think I'll probably want to see Arrival again too.

Oh, and one of the trailers was the first full one for Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall. It looks like House of Flying Daggers meets Tolkien. Which in Zhang's hands could be a very good thing!

I hate to say it but I've reached a point of reacting negatively to anything involving movies and Tolkien.

I haven't seen Interstellar or Midnight Special. As it happens, last weekend Uverse ran a weekend freebie of their premium channels, and I notice Interstellar playing on one of them and recorded it. So I'll be watching it sometime soon.

I very definitely want to see Arrival again.

In passing: the cable companies are getting the message. Or at least AT&T is. I'm years overdue for cancelling Uverse, which we hardly use, and finally went to do it a month or so ago, and discovered that they have introduced a whole lot more flexibility in their plans and pricing. So I was able to cut it way back. And did it directly on their web site--no wrangling on the phone with somebody trying to prevent me from doing what I called to do.

I liked Midnight Special a lot.


Have we discussed it? Rings a bell but I can't remember anything definite.

I think we did. It came out early this year, stars Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst as parents of a specially "gifted" child -- they're on the run from both the government and a religious cult. It's directed by Jeff Nichols, who did Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud.

We must have, or I wouldn't have known about it.

I just spent the morning doing laundry and watching Interstellar. I was surprised this morning when Amazon asked me if I wanted to watch it again, because I didn't think I'd seen it. And then, I remembered the very first part, and a few scenes after that, but very little. I think that Bill much have watched it one night when I was too tired to stay up and watch anything else.

It didn't like it anywhere near as well as Arrival, but I did like it quite a bit.


We went to see Arrival again yesterday. It's only the second time I've gone to see a movie twice in the theater--except the first Beatles movie, but that was a different thing.;-)

I definitely saw some things I hadn't noticed before. And then, I had left to go to the restroom the first time around, and when I saw what I had missed--well, it was an important few minutes.


I enjoyed Midnight Special very much but I thought the ending was a bit of a let down.

It reminded me too much of Tommowland.


I'm very curious as to what you missed. Guess I'll do that spoilers post. Anybody else have plans to see Arrival in the next few days? I haven't been back for a second viewing.

I watched Interstellar again over the weekend and liked it more the second time. This is no doubt partly because when I saw it in the cinema back in 2014 the sound system in the theater was so loud that the music and effects often overwhelmed the dialogue, which was very annoying. This time around I caught what I missed, and it made a difference.

I think the film is fantastic up till the end, when it loses its way a bit in what I think is too much of an effort to explain things. But it gains its power back at the very end, imo, and thus isn't spoiled. I think the acting is largely excellent, and the human element of the film quite moving in places.

I don't know 'Tomorrowland.' I read somewhere that Nichols had a bit of a dilemma on his hands in how to end 'Midnight Special.' He was doing what was in fact a sort of homage to 80's s/f films, but if he did a full-blown big Spielberg ending, like the one in 'Super 8,' critics probably would have complained, given the "small" nature of the rest of the film. On the other hand, in choosing a proportionally small ending, he risked the chance of people being "underwhelmed" and thus disappointed.

Personally, I think he made the right choice. For the film to be completely successful the ending would have to strike the perfect balance between the splashy and the quotidian, which would be a difficult feat. In my view he was right to err towards the "small" rather than the big and splashy (although no doubt the latter would have gained him bigger box office numbers.)

Looked up Tomorrowland, and remember it now. I skipped it because of the largely middling reviews (50 on RT, 60 on MC).

Well, I think what I didn't like was that it was just ugly. But that's probably a matter of taste.

I've never seen Matthew McConaughey in anything in which I liked him so well as I did in Interstellar.

I think another element that is in the three movies you mentioned, Rob, is the nature of communication--how it succeeds and how it fails.


just a note...we should probably avoid spoilers on both Interstellar and M.S., as several folks haven't seen either/both.

Yes, McConaughey has really revived his career as a serious actor after a serious fall-off. I think the movie that started his comeback was 'The Lincoln Lawyer.' And he was excellent in the 'True Detective' series.

"the nature of communication--how it succeeds and how it fails."

Yes, very true. Hadn't thought of that!

I've put up a post for the spoilers-allowed discussion of Arrival. I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to watch Interstellar, because it's almost 3 hours long. I would watch it in 1-hour chunks by myself but my wife wants to see it, too, and she's not so keen on that.

Well, no wonder I couldn't figure out what happened to my day. I did watch it in bits between doing housework, so I just didn't notice the length.


Finally watched 'I Know Where I'm Going!' last night. It was different than what I thought it was going to be (I had expected something a little more Ealing-ish) but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless!

Glad to hear it. I think of it as a very sweet and wholesome film, without meaning those words in the least bit ironically or dismissively.

Watched this earlier this evening. Very enjoyable film, and the camerawork in the storm is some of the best I've seen for giving an impression of movement in a heavy sea.

I don't recall that specifically. I'd like to see this again. I think I watched it twice before I gave away that videotape.

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