The Hollywood Reporter has these cool Roundtable interview videos on YouTube, one of which is the Full Director’s Roundtable. Stephen Galloway hosts and starts the conversation with questions about filmmaking and each director answers. For this blog series, I’ll be focusing on the question, “You’re on a life boat and you can bring only one movie. Which movie do you choose?”
Patty Jenkins pick: I Know Where I’m Going (1945)
Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants in life. The film opens with scenes from her childhood conveying to the audience of her stubborn and ambitious nature. She meets her father in a posh restaurant to tell him of her plans to marry an older wealthy industrialist. Her father expresses his desire for her to reconsider; however, Joan is determined to follow through. Using varying modes of transportation, she eventually makes it to the Scottish island of Mull where a boat is due to pick her up for her last leg of travel to the island of Kiloran. Due to the fog and weather, she is told it’s unsafe to travel by Naval officer Torquil MacNeil ( Roger Livesey) who introduces her to his friend Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown) for a place to stay until the weather clears.
Joan is not the patient type, so every chance she gets, she spends it asking if it’s safe to travel or trying to pay or bribe someone to take her by boat to Kiloran. She insists over and over she MUST get to Kiloran as she is supposed to be married as soon as possible. Torquil arranges for Joan to speak over radio to her fiance Sir Robert Bellinger (Norman Shelley) who agrees with Torquil, and everyone else, that’s it’s safer to wait for better weather. This, of course, does not deter Joan in her quest. As the chemistry between Joan and Torquil becomes more and more evident, Joan pushes harder and harder in her quest to travel to Kiloran.
While Joan waits out the weather, Torquil takes her to an anniversary party for one of the oldest married couples on the island. They dance and eat and he introduces her to the people of the town. Joan learns more about Torquil and discovers his family actually owns the island she is trying to travel to and there’s more to his family’s history and folklore than he’s willing to say. At the party, Joan meets a young couple to want to get married but don’t have the money to do so. This gives Joan an idea…
Joan bribes the young man to take her to Kiloran by boat during a dangerous storm; however, just before they are about to leave, Torquil finds out and stops them. He decides to take her himself and they’re almost killed by the storm. Joan finally meets her fiance on Kiloran and thinks her troubles are over. However, once she has to say goodbye to Torquil, it becomes clear between the both of them of their love for each other.
What I Liked
Of course, the black and white element. For me, the fancy restaurant looks fancier, the storm looks stormier, the chemistry between Joan and Torquil is stronger and less deniable in black and white. The practical clothes of the townspeople versus Joan’s upscale clothes, casual and laid back environment with the dogs on the furniture versus the uptight and determined Joan, and the realness of community versus Joan’s cold demeanor makes this fish out of water story work. Joan is definitely out of her element of controlling every aspect of her life and there’s nothing she can do about it but wait. Because things don’t go her way, she’s forced to examine her heart, her lack of emotional maturity about life, and face the fact that her head isn’t always going to agree with her heart. I gotta hand it to Torquil for falling in love with such a hard-headed woman and to Catriona for putting up with such a prom queen as a guest. Joan is not an easy person to get along with.
The landscapes of the Scottish islands were gorgeous, the stormy sea was daunting, and the scenes were intimate in a way to propel the chemistry between Joan and Torquil. I love the weather as a catalyst for Joan and Torquil’s falling in love story. Kind of a divine intervention of sorts. The dialogue is rich with hoity-toity exchanges demonstrating just how out of touch with human relationships Joan really is as well as cutting remarks towards Joan’s ambition being in the way of human safety. The town is polite but still doesn’t cut her any slack when given the opportunity.
What I Wished Was Better
Joan truly fights against her feelings once she gets to Mull. She tries so hard to hold on to her quest to get to Kiloran and marry the man she thinks is best for her. As the days progress, the cracks in her thinking are revealed more and more, which actually makes her seem less attractive–at least to me. She’s more about strategy and class status than love. I wonder what the film would’ve been like if Joan had begun to soften toward Torquil in the first couple of stormy days so when the storm finally cleared and it was safe to travel, she then made excuses for not going to Kiloran to stay with Torquil longer? It may have created a love triangle with Sir Robert and Torquil–who know each by the way…then she would’ve had to choose: her heart (Torquil) or her head (Sir Robert).
Patty Jenkins chose this film because the chemistry in this film proves you cannot fight true love. Sometimes life (or the weather) and love make the decision for you. The choice to act is yours. A great film. Available for rent on Amazon or with subscription to The Criterion Channel. Watch the trailer below:
Fun facts: In 1947, this screenplay was shown to studio writers as the perfect screenplay when inspiration was needed. Roger Livesay was working on a theatrical show at the time of filming, so all of his scenes were shot in studio–NOT on location. A light meter was not used by Erwin Hillier, the cinematographer, while shooting the film and is a favorite film of many in the industry including Tilda Swinton and documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker.