I Know Where I'm Going! (film)

I Know Where I'm Going! is a 1945 romance film by the British-based filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It stars Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey, and features Pamela Brown and Finlay Currie.

I Know Where I'm Going!
theatrical poster
Directed byMichael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
Produced byMichael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
George R. Busby (associate producer)
Written byMichael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
StarringWendy Hiller
Roger Livesey
Music byAllan Gray
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byJohn Seabourne Sr.
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
16 November 1945 (UK)
9 August 1947 (US)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) is a young middle-class Englishwoman with an ambitious, independent spirit. She knows where she's going, or at least she thinks she does. She travels from her home in Manchester to the Hebrides to marry Sir Robert Bellinger, a wealthy, much older industrialist, on the (fictitious) Isle of Kiloran.

When bad weather postpones the final leg of her journey—a boat trip to Kiloran—she is forced to wait it out on the Isle of Mull, among a community of people whose values are quite different from hers. There she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer trying to go home to Kiloran for some shore leave. They are sheltered for the night in the nearby home of Torquil's friend, Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown).

The next day, on their way to catch a bus to town, they come upon the ruins of Moy Castle. Joan wants to take a look inside, but Torquil refuses to go in. When she reminds him that the terrible curse associated with it only applies to the laird of Kiloran, Torquil introduces himself: he is the laird, and Bellinger has only leased his island. As the bad weather worsens into a full-scale gale, Torquil spends more time with Joan, who becomes increasingly torn between her ambition and her growing attraction to him.

Desperate to salvage her carefully laid plans, Joan tries to persuade Ruairidh Mhór (Finlay Currie) to take her to Kiloran immediately, but he knows conditions are far too dangerous. Joan manages to bribe young Kenny (Murdo Morrison) into attempting it by offering him enough money to buy a half-share in Ruairidh's boat and marry Ruairidh's daughter Bridie (Margot Fitzsimons). Torquil learns of the scheme and tries to talk Joan out of it, but she is adamant. After Joan has gone down to the boat, Catriona tells MacNeil that Joan is actually running away from him. He races to the quayside and invites himself aboard. En route, the boat's engine is flooded and they are nearly caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool, but Torquil is able to restart the motor just in time and they return safely to Mull.

At last the weather clears. Joan asks Torquil for a parting kiss before they go their separate ways. Torquil enters Moy Castle, and the curse takes effect almost immediately. Centuries earlier, Torquil's ancestor had stormed the castle to capture his unfaithful wife and her lover. He had them bound together and cast into a water-filled dungeon with only a small stone to stand on. When their strength gave out, they dragged each other into the water, but not before she placed a curse on the lairds of Kiloran: any who dared step over the threshold would be chained to a woman to the end of his days. From the battlements, Torquil sees Joan, accompanied by three bagpipers, marching resolutely toward him. They embrace.




Powell and Pressburger wanted to make A Matter of Life and Death but filming was held up because they wanted to do the film in colour and there was a shortage of colour cameras. (Technicolor cameras and technical specialists were mostly in Hollywood during the Second World War.)

Pressburger suggested that instead they make a film that was part of the "crusade against materialism", a theme they had tackled in The Canterbury Tale, only in a more accessible romantic comedy format.[3]

The story was originally called The Misty Island. Pressburger wanted to make a film about a girl who wants to get to an island, but by the end of the film no longer wants to. Powell suggested an island on Scotland's west coast. He and Pressburger spent several weeks researching locations and decided on the Isle of Mull.

Pressburger wrote the screenplay in four days. "It just burst out, you couldn't hold back," he said.[4]

The movie was originally meant to star Deborah Kerr and James Mason but Kerr could not get out of her contract with MGM, so they cast Wendy Hiller.[5] Hiller was originally cast in the three roles Kerr played in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp but had to withdraw because she got pregnant.[6][7]

Six weeks before filming, Mason pulled out of the movie, saying he did not want to go on location. Roger Livesey read the script and asked to play the role. Powell thought he was too old and portly but Livesey lost "ten or twelve pounds" (four or five kilos) and lightened his hair: Powell was convinced.[8] Livesey was appearing in a West End play, Bunbury Nose, during the shoot, so he was unable to go on location.[9]


Shooting took place on the Isle of Mull and at Denham Studios.

It was the second and last collaboration between the co-directors and cinematographer Erwin Hillier (who shot the entire film without a light meter).[10]

From various topographical references and a map briefly shown in the film, it is clear that the Isle of Kiloran is based on Colonsay. The name Kiloran was borrowed from one of Colonsay's bays, Kiloran Bay. The heroine of the film is trying to get to Kiloran (Colonsay), but nobody ever gets there. No footage was shot on Colonsay.

One of the most complex scenes shows the small boat battling the Corryvreckan whirlpool. This was a combination of footage shot at Corryvreckan between the Hebridean islands of Scarba and Jura, and the Gray Dogs (Bealach a'Choin Ghlais) between Scarba and Lunga.[11]

  • There are some long-distance shots looking down over the area, shot from one of the islands.
  • There are some middle-distance and close-up shots that were made from a small boat with a hand-held camera.
  • There were some model shots, done in the tank at the studio. These had gelatin added to the water so that it would hold its shape better and would look better when scaled up.
  • The close-up shots of the people in the boat were all done in the studio, with a boat on gimbals being rocked in all directions by some hefty studio hands while others threw buckets of water at them. These were filmed with the shots made from the boat with the hand-held camera projected behind them.
  • Further trickery joined some of the long- and middle-distance shots together with those made in the tank into a single frame.[12]

Though much of the film was shot in the Hebrides, Livesey was not able to travel to Scotland because he was performing in a West End play, The Banbury Nose by Peter Ustinov, at the time of filming. Thus all his scenes were shot in the studio at Denham, and a double (coached by Livesey in London) was used in all of his scenes shot in Scotland. These were then mixed so that the same scene would often have a middle-distance shot of the double and then a closeup of Livesey, or a shot of the double's back followed by a shot showing Livesey's face.[13]

John Laurie was the choreographer and arranger for the cèilidh sequences.[14] The puirt à beul "Macaphee"[15] was performed by Boyd Steven, Maxwell Kennedy and Jean Houston of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir.[16]

The film's other music is traditional Scottish and Irish songs[17] and original music by Allan Gray.

The film was budgeted at £200,000 and went £30,000 over. The actors received £50,000, of which one third went to Hiller. The whirlpool cost £40,000.[18]

Powell shot a scene at the end of the film where Catriona follows Torquil into the castle, to emphasise her love for him, but decided to cut it.[7]



Box office

The film was a hit at the box office and recovered its cost in the UK alone.[19]

US release

The film was one of the first five movies from the Rank Organisation to receive a release in the US under a new arrangement. The others were Caesar and Cleopatra, The Rake's Progress, Brief Encounter and The Wicked Lady.[20]


The film has received accolades from many critics:

  • "I've never seen a picture which smelled of the wind and rain in quite this way nor one which so beautifully exploited the kind of scenery people actually live with, rather than the kind which is commercialised as a show place." —Raymond Chandler, Letters.[21]
  • "The cast makes the best possible use of some natural, unforced dialogue, and there is some glorious outdoor photography." —The Times, 14 November 1945
  • "[It] has interest and integrity. It deserves to have successors." —The Guardian, 16 November 1945
  • "I reached the point of thinking there were no more masterpieces to discover, until I saw I Know Where I'm Going!" —Martin Scorsese[10]
  • The film critic Barry Norman included it among his 100 greatest films of all time.
  • The film critic Molly Haskell included it among her 10 greatest films of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll.

Pressburger said when he visited Paramount Pictures in 1947 the head of the script department told him they considered the film's screenplay perfect and frequently watched it for inspiration.[22]



  1. MacDonald p 248
  2. Erik on IMDb, Spangle on IMDb
  3. MacDonald p 242
  4. Kevin Macdonald (1994). Emeric Pressburger: The Life and Death of a Screenwriter. Faber and Faber. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-571-16853-8.
  5. MacDonald p 245
  6. "GINGER ROGERS' RETURN TO MUSICAL COMEDY". Sunday Times (Perth) (2442). Western Australia. 3 December 1944. p. 11 (SUPPLEMENT TO "THE SUNDAY TIMES"). Retrieved 29 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Powell and Pressburger: the war years Badder, David. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 48, Iss. 1, (Winter 1978): 8.
  8. Powell (1986) p 476
  9. MacDonald p 243
  10. In the documentary I Know Where I'm Going Revisited (1994) on the Criterion DVD
  11. "Corryvreckan Whirlpool in Scotland". Retrieved 15 April 2007.
  12. Powell, Michael (1986). A Life in Movies. London: Heinemann. p. 480. ISBN 978-0-434-59945-5.
  13. Powell (1986): 476
  14. Powell (1986: 537–538)
  15. Macaphee song
  16. "I Know Where I'm Going!; (1945)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  17. Music in IKWIG
  18. MacDonald
  19. MacDonald p 249
  20. "D-DAY FOR BRITISH FILMS". Townsville Daily Bulletin. LXVII. Queensland, Australia. 19 December 1945. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  21. "An interesting letter". Retrieved 15 November 2006.
  22. MacDonald p 249


  • Cook, Pam (4 November 2002). I know where I'm going!. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 978-0-85170-814-0.
  • Powell, Michael (1986). A Life in Movies (autobiography). London: Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-434-59945-5.
  • Powell, Michael (1992). Million Dollar Movie (The second volume of his autobiography). London: Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-434-59947-9.

DVD reviews

Region 1
  • Review by DVD Savant
  • Review by Megan Ratner at Bright Lights
Region 2
  • Review by Noel Megahey at DVD Times (UK)
  • Review (in French) at DVD Classik (France)
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