I Know Where I'm Going! | Fresh Takes
Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.
Alice, Tess & Zara
19 Jan 24
Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas.
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Here are some Fresh Takes on I Know Where I'm Going!, Powell and Pressburger's disarming and enchanting romance about a headstrong young city girl who sets off to marry a rich older man on his remote Hebridean island – until stormy weather leaves her stranded on a neighbouring isle with her plans set awry.
This film is showing as part of our Powell & Pressburger season, a celebration of the UK's most prodigious pair of filmmakers and their far-reaching, utterly sublime cinematic visions. Find out more and book tickets at picturehouses.com/p&p
Zara Petranova, 23Zara is a Film Studies and Philosophy graduate based in Oxford who loves the cinematic sensory experience. Currently working as a bookseller, she is always chasing after the next best film adaptation of her favourite books.
I must admit, despite having a degree in Film Studies, I do not naturally tend to gravitate towards films made pre-2000. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed I Know Where I'm Going!, a romance from 1945 directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Our two leads had a natural and palpable chemistry between them. Headstrong Joan Webster is on her way from Manchester to the Hebrides to marry wealthy Sir Robert Bellinger, when a storm strands her on the Isle of Mull alongside one Torquil MacNeil. Every scene with Joan and MacNeil had an electric energy to it, and the colourful and charming cast of supporting characters on the island rounded out the performances of the film very well.
The sound design was also a highlight. Exterior shots of the natural landscapes and stormy sea, paired with sounds of swirling wind, crashing waves, and thrilling, upbeat and adventurous music puts us right at the heart of the storm alongside the characters. Despite originally coming out almost 80 years ago now, the film's charm and main story (that even the best-laid plans are nothing in the face of Scottish weather) still holds fast today.
Alice is an A-level student and writer based in Yorkshire, currently working on her third novel.
I Know Where I'm Going! offers us Joan Webster, a protagonist whose easy confidence and charm seem almost aspirational at first. She's an introvert's idea of an extrovert, casually breezing through life with little to bother her, able to work her way around any person or situation standing in her way. She's Going(!), we learn, to an island in the Scottish Hebrides, to marry a wealthy businessman.
This assured confidence loses its footing by the end of act one, as her route to the island is disrupted, and Joan develops into a more timid, more neurotic version of herself, questioning if her groom-to-be is really right for her at all.
The film twists its decidedly proper 1940s sensibilities until they snap, resulting in a rich character piece about the chronic pain of a future determined by the past. Dialogue, stilted by its period and protagonist's social standing, is offset by a haunting choral score and dreamlike cinematography. Smoke machines, slowly disintegrating transitions, and silhouettes against a monochrome sky all work to turn the Hebrides into a fairyland, whisking the viewer away with Joan into wide-eyed wonder.
Though potentially toeing the Hebridean shoreline of 'cringe' once or twice, I Know Where I'm Going! still presents a compelling story – one of a mind wrenched open so questions can flood in.
Tess is a student from Manchester. A keen cinephile, she aspires to work in film production one day. Some of her favourite directors include Todd Haynes, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Shane Meadows, but she loves to discover new films from different regions and is fascinated by a range of genres.
The opening montage of I Know Where I'm Going! establishes its protagonist, Joan, as a woman whose life is carefully plotted out – a funny irony as the rest of the tale unfolds. When journeying to the Scottish Hebrides to marry her wealthy fiancé, Joan becomes stranded on the Isle of Mull, but is slowly charmed by its quirky inhabitants. At times the tone echoes the sense of unease present in The Wicker Man, perhaps to reflect Joan's newfound uncertainty or her doomed engagement.
The cinematography captures Mull's majesty with shots of dark mist, impressive seascapes, and a particularly enchanting ceilidh scene. The richness of life in Mull cheapens Joan's ambitions, best summarised in local laird Torquil's dialogue: its community is "not poor, they just haven't got any money".
Joan lodges with a local, Catriona, who is every part Joan's counter – her informal, no-nonsense characterisation is instantly likeable, and her entrance is by far the best introduction to a character I've seen: she emerges wildly from the shadows, shotgun in hand, mightily flinging a shot rabbit over her shoulder.
We're denied an introduction to Joan's would-be husband, so we lack the comparison needed to see Torquil as anything less than the perfect companion, and the pair's chemistry is lifting. Nature guides their blooming romance, enriching the film with binaries of heart and head, nature and convention. I Know Where I'm Going! is a poignant reminder that even our best-laid plans can go dramatically wrong – but, just maybe, they ought to.