Sunday, February 4, 2024

"The fog, the mists, the raging tides..."

From a Wall Street Journal review of a film that was set and mostly filmed in Scotland.
A prolonged squall and a military man upend the plans of a gold-digger (Wendy Hiller). Previously so sure-footed, she is suddenly uncertain about her path. What will it be: marry for money or marry for love? A castle, a curse, and a cèilidh figure in the decision-making. ....

Joan Webster (Ms. Hiller), a Manchester office worker in her mid-20s, was born with her mind good and made up. A model of expository efficiency and visual inventiveness, the movie embeds its title credits in a droll voice-over prologue: “When Joan was only 1-year old, she already knew where she was going. Right? Left? No. Straight on. When she was 5, she was writing ‘Dear Father Christmas: I don’t want a doll and I don’t want a big red ball. What I want is a pair of silk stockings. And I mean silk, not artificial.’

Now engaged to a fabulously wealthy industrialist many years her senior, Joan is off to Kiloran, a fictitious island in the Hebrides where the nuptials will soon take place. On the train northward, she has a dream that’s wryly revealing of the future she envisions. There are images of tartan-covered hills, of bank notes tossed in the air, and a minister leading her through her vows: “Do you, Joan Webster, take Consolidated Chemical Industries to be your lawful wedded husband?” “I do,” comes Joan’s crisp response.

That certainty founders on the last leg of the journey, a short boat trip to Kiloran that is delayed first by fog, then a gale warning. While Joan is cooling her heels on the Isle of Mull she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer on shore leave in the waning days of World War II. He, too, is waiting out the weather. And, like Joan, he’s bound for Kiloran. He’s its laird, he explains. As such, he’s the target of a curse placed on his family by an understandably vengeful ancestor. ....

I Know Where I’m Going! wears its “money isn’t everything” message lightly, enrobing it in the story of a young woman’s sentimental education.

What better venue for this education than an island being lashed by a storm or two? There’s no way out for Joan, no dodging the salt-of-the-earth citizenry whose values are foreign to her. Which is to say, they’re poor and fine about it.
“Not poor,” Torquil corrects her gently. “They just haven’t got money.”
“It’s the same thing,” Joan responds.
“Oh, no,” Torquil corrects her again. “Something quite different.” ....
That there are several exchanges in Gaelic adds both to Joan’s sense of dislocation and the movie’s deep sense of place. The fog, the mists, the raging tides are as much characters in the movie as the actors. It seems only fair. After all, their role is critical: They make certain Joan doesn’t get where she’s going.
I Know Where I'm Going can be purchased as a DVD at Amazon, or rented on Prime.

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