I Know Where I'm Going!

I Know Where I'm Going! is a 1945 romance film by the British 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
Written byMichael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
Produced byMichael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
George R. Busby (associate producer)
StarringWendy Hiller
Roger Livesey
Pamela Brown
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byJohn Seabourne Sr.
Music byAllan Gray
The Archers
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release dates
  • 16 November 1945 (1945-11-16) (UK)
  • 9 August 1947 (1947-08-09) (US)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£230,000[1] or $1.2 million[2]



Joan Webster is a 25-year-old 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 (the 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, a naval officer trying to go home to Kiloran while on shore leave. They are sheltered for the night in the nearby home of Torquil's friend, Catriona Potts. Joan suggests to Catriona that she could sell her property to get money. Catriona replies, "Money isn't everything."

The next day, on their way to catch a bus to Tobermory, where she can call Bellinger by radio, 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 rented his island. On the bus, the locals (not knowing who Joan is) recount several disparaging stories about Bellinger.

At the coast guard station in Tobermory, Joan places a call to Bellinger on Kiloran. Torquil gets them rooms at the Western Isles Hotel; she asks him to sit at a separate table in the hotel's dining room to avert gossip. 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.

When Joan visits Achnacroish, she is surprised to re-encounter Torquil, who feigns not to know her in the presence of others, among them Bellinger's friends. She and Torquil attend a ceilidh celebrating a couple's diamond wedding anniversary; the three bagpipers hired to play at Joan's wedding perform. Torquil translates the song "Nut-Brown Maiden" for Joan, emphasising the line "You're the maid for me." Despite Joan's hesitancy, Torquil persuades her to dance.

Desperate to salvage her carefully laid plans, Joan tries to persuade Ruairidh Mhór to take her to Kiloran immediately, but he knows conditions are far too dangerous. Joan manages to bribe Ruairidh Mhór's young assistant, Kenny, into attempting it by offering him £20: enough money to buy a half-share in Ruairidh's boat and marry Ruairidh's daughter Bridie. Torquil tries to talk Joan out of it, but she is adamant. He gives up in disgust, but when Catriona tells Torquil that Joan is running away from him, he races to the quayside and invites himself aboard. En route, the boat's engine is flooded. They are nearly caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool, but Torquil restarts the motor just in time. The trio return safely to Mull.

Finally, 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 stormed the castle to capture his unfaithful wife and her lover. He had them bound together and cast into the castle's water-filled dungeon, which had a stone just big enough for one person 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. Torquil finds the inscription of the curse: "If he [MacNeil of Kiloran and every MacNeil after him] shall ever cross the threshold of Moy never shall he leave it a free man. He shall be chained to a woman to the end of his days and shall die in his chains."

From the battlements, Torquil sees Joan and the three pipers (playing "Nut-Brown Maiden") marching resolutely towards him. The couple meet in the castle and embrace.

Torquil and Joan walk away together along the lane arm in arm. "I Know Where I'm Going" is sung as the end credits roll.







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 A Canterbury Tale, only in a more accessible romantic comedy format.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7][8]

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,[9] but Livesey was appearing in a West End play, The Banbury Nose, during the shoot, so he was unable to go on location.[10]



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).[11]

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 Bealach a'Choin Ghlais (Sound of the Grey Dogs) between Scarba and Lunga.[12]

  • 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.[13]

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.[14]

The film was budgeted at £200,000 (equivalent to £10,902,053 in 2023) and went £30,000 over. The actors received £50,000, of which one third went to Hiller. The whirlpool cost £40,000.[15]

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.[8]



John Laurie was the choreographer and arranger for the cèilidh sequences.[16] The puirt à beul "Macaphee"[17] was performed by Boyd Steven, Maxwell Kennedy and Jean Houston of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir.[18] The song sung at the cèilidh that Torquil translates for Joan is a traditional Gaelic song "Ho ro, mo nighean donn bhòidheach", originally translated into English as "Ho ro My Nut Brown Maiden" by John Stuart Blackie in 1882. It is also played by three pipers marching toward Moy Castle at the start of the final scene.[19][20] The film's other music is traditional Scottish and Irish songs[21] and original music by Allan Gray.





Box office


The film was a hit at the box office and recovered its cost in the UK alone.[22]

U.S. release


The film was one of the first five movies from the Rank Organisation to receive a release in the U.S. under a new arrangement. The others were Caesar and Cleopatra, The Rake's Progress, Brief Encounter and The Wicked Lady.[23]



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.[24]
  • "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[11]
  • 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.[25]

Pressburger said that, 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]

Radio adaptation


Hiller appeared in a radio adaptation of the film.[26]

See also

  • Leap Year, a 2010 film loosely based on I Know Where I'm Going




  1. ^ MacDonald p 248
  2. ^ "London West End Has Big Pix Sked". Variety. 21 November 1945. p. 19. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  3. ^ Erik at IMDb, Spangle at IMDb
  4. ^ MacDonald p 242
  5. ^ Kevin Macdonald (1994). Emeric Pressburger: The Life and Death of a Screenwriter. Faber and Faber. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-571-16853-8.
  6. ^ MacDonald p 245
  7. ^ "Ginger Rogers' Return to Musical Comedy". Sunday Times (Perth). No. 2442. Western Australia. 3 December 1944. p. 11 (SUPPLEMENT TO "THE SUNDAY TIMES"). Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ a b Powell and Pressburger: the war years Badder, David. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 48, Iss. 1, (Winter 1978): 8.
  9. ^ Powell (1986) p 476
  10. ^ MacDonald p 243
  11. ^ a b In the documentary I Know Where I'm Going Revisited (1994) on the Criterion DVD
  12. ^ "The Corryvreckan Whirlpool - Scotland's maelstrom". Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  13. ^ Powell, Michael (1986). A Life in Movies. London: Heinemann. p. 480. ISBN 978-0-434-59945-5.
  14. ^ Powell (1986): 476
  15. ^ MacDonald
  16. ^ Powell (1986: 537–538)
  17. ^ Macaphee song
  18. ^ "I Know Where I'm Going!; (1945)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 29 June 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  19. ^ Kennedy, Howard Angus (November 1895). Professor Blackie His Sayings and Doings. London: James Clark & Co. p. 193.
  20. ^ Williams, Tony (10 August 2000). Structures of desire : British cinema, 1939-1955. State University of New York Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7914-4643-0.
  21. ^ Music in IKWIG
  22. ^ a b MacDonald p 249
  23. ^ "D-DAY FOR BRITISH FILMS". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Vol. LXVII. Queensland, Australia. 19 December 1945. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "An interesting letter". Retrieved 15 November 2006.
  25. ^ "Analysis: The Greatest Films of All Time 2012". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  26. ^ "2CH Women's League Xmas Party", ABC Weekly, 9 (50), Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Commission, 13 December 1947, retrieved 13 December 2023 – via Trove



DVD reviews

Region 1
  • Review by DVD Savant
  • Review by Megan Ratner at Bright Lights
Region 2