One of the marvelous things about classic movies is that no matter how many hundreds of films one has seen, there are always more just waiting to be discovered. And there's a particular thrill that comes with viewing a wonderful movie for the very first time.
I had such an experience tonight watching the 1945 British film I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING!, written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
The movie stars Wendy Hiller as Joan Webster, a determined young lady who is headed for her wedding to a wealthy man she doesn't love. However, Joan has to get there first, and "there" is a remote Scottish island. Bad weather strands Joan in a village for several days, where she gradually falls under the spell of the people in general and a poor but dashing Naval officer, Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), in particular.
I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! combines equal parts comedy and drama. The film's beginning is enchanting, as we follow Joan growing to adulthood over the opening credits. Joan is stubborn -- and mercenary -- yet she also has a certain charm; she's a fully rounded, human character. Small moments linger in the mind, such as Joan hanging up her wedding dress in her train compartment, gazing at it with satisfaction.
Livesey has quiet confidence as Torquil, and Joan and the audience simultaneously get to know him and come to see his worth. The romance between Joan and Torquil is depicted with great subtlety -- blink and you will miss key moments -- but it builds to a wonderful, heartwarming conclusion. The film's 91 minutes fly past quickly.
The black and white photography and the Scottish locations are stunning. You may want to watch this one wrapped in a warm blanket, as the viewer can't help feeling cooooold watching the wind and rainswept scenes. (I also felt a bit seasick during the last third of the movie...) The weather and stark locale combine with Gaelic, ancient castles and legends, music, animals, and village celebrations to give the film a certain otherworldly, mystic quality.
Pamela Brown is particularly striking as Catriona, a free-spirited woman who takes weary traveler Joan into her dog-filled, cobwebby home. Petula Clark was about 12 when she played a young girl Joan meets during her stay. Finlay Currie is also in the large cast.
I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! is available on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection; like most Criterion DVD's, it's packed with extras, including a commentary track.
The movie is also available on VHS and can be seen on cable on TCM.
I'm looking forward to watching the commentary track soon, as it will give me the chance to absorb more of the film. It's a relatively simple story, but told with so many rich details and nuances that it's impossible to take it all in in one sitting.
Watch and enjoy!
Update: Here's some good trivia...Margot Fitzsimons, who plays young Bridie, is the sister of Maureen O'Hara.