Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {I Know Where I'm Going!}

What can I saw about IKWIG, aside from that it's one of my two all-time favourite films. It's such a wonderfully beautiful film and a testament to the power that black and white has over colour. It's a modern fairy tale of a love story that's both simple and complex and offers some important messages to those who care to listen. It could even change your life, if you'd like it to. And if not, it will at least make you smile.
This is Joan Webster, played by Dame Wendy Hiller. Joan is 25 and has always known what she's wanted -to have the security of material wealth without sacrificing too much of her independence.
We begin with Joan taking her father to a night club in the middle of the war. She's engaged to the head of the company that she works for. Sir Robert Bellinger is one of the richest men in England and also a war profiteer.
Joan really only wears that one suit, since she spends most of the film travelling and everyone used to have one good wool suit for long journeys. Keep note of the circumstances in which Joan pulls out her compact since those moments do say a lot about her character and is something which only us girls would notice.
Mr. Webster doesn't like the idea of Joan marrying someone old enough to be her father or that she doesn't really love him or that she must travel to the Hebrides to marry him. But he still takes her to the station since he can't fight her decision.

After over a day travelling, she finally reaches the Isle of Mull where she is supposed to catch the ferry to an island called Kiloran. Joan thinks that Sir Robert is the owner of the island.
But there is a storm preventing any boats from crossing and she meets Torquil MacNeil, who lives on Kiloran and is trying to spend his leave there.

After waiting to see if Sir Robert sends a boat for her, she gives up and goes to the big house that Torquil told her that she could stay at.
The house is owned by Catriona Potts nee Maclean and she tries to take Joan under her wing. Also there is the permanent house guest Col. Barnstaple, an eccentric falconer.
Torquil, of course, sees right through Joan materialistic persona and immediately falls for her, once he can straighten her out of course and show her life beyond urbanity. Wait till you hear Roger Livesey's voice, it sounds almost like velvet!
Naturally, the storm turns into a gale overnight and Torquil and Joan decide to take the bus into town to stay at the hotel.
On the way there, they stop at the Gothic Moy Castle that has a curse upon it.
Torquil reveals himself to be the poor Laird of Kiloran who has merely rented out the island to Sir Robert for the duration of the war.
On the bus, we meet a group of locals and Torquil shows that his job is to know the names and relatives of all those connected with Kiloran and to find out what's been going on and how he can help them.
The locals also tell of how Sir Robert is building a swimming pool on the island, so that he doesn't have to swim in the local rivers and lakes and how he orders fish from the mainland instead of buying it from the island residents and thereby depriving people of jobs and money. Joan, in a fabulous stocking cap, still clings to her city-dweller beliefs and avoids seeing the logic of the dying traditional lifestyles. Or is she lying to herself?
In town, Joan and Torquil contact Kiloran by radio (remember the time before telephones and wi-fi). Sir Robert, who has a terrible voice, tells Joan that she should stay with the visiting Robinsons who are "the only people worth knowing" on Mull.
All ready by the time they reach the hotel, Joan's hair has become fluffier, she's stopped looking at her compact and she's nervous to be left alone with Torquil.
After reading some of the reviews by internet users, I should point out that Joan is in no way a gold digger. She's a very proper, but misguided young woman who is desperate to get to Kiloran before she succumbs to Torquil, whom she knows that she has fallen in love with.
The next day, Joan visits the Robinsons, who live in a large, touristy castle.
Their daughter Cheril knows that both Joan and her parents are phoneys. That's actually a young Petula Clark before she was a singer.
Mr. and Mrs. Robinson are very vain and have rented the castle also for the duration, so that they don't have to live in a city during rationing and air-raids. Cowards!
They take Joan to see Rebecca Crozier, all that's left of the Scottish aristocracy in Mull.
And look who's there having tea with Rebecca, looking quite amused.
Rebecca talks nostalgically about what life was like on the islands before the war. Joan is very interested (as should you be)
but alas, the Robinson's only care about playing bridge after tea and that puts an ends to the lecture.
Isn't that one of the most fantastic, but over the top hat who've seen this year?

Since Joan and Torquil don't play bridge (such a nasty game) they go to a ceilidh given for the diamond anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell.

Back at the hotel, Joan has a crisis and prays for the storm to die down. It doesn't and so Joan and Torquil go back to Catriona's in case Mrs. Robinson comes looking for Joan.
I love the character of Catriona! She takes one look at Torquil and Joan as they come in and immediately knows more about their relationship then they do themselves.
Joan, now heading towards a breakdown, bribes the young boatman Kenny to take her across that afternoon during the height of the storm. Kenny's fiancee Bridie (played by Maureen O'Hara's sister) can't understand why Joan would be so selfish as to ruin so many lives and so Joan confesses to Catriona what Catriona already knows.
Torquil tries to reason with her, but fails and lets her storm out.
So Catriona tells Torquil and he's out to the boat like a shot, which is good since he knows how to mend the boat with water splashing around.

The boat trip doesn't go well, since they float towards the whirlpool instead of Kiloran. That shot of the whirlpool is the actual one taken by Michael Powell with a handheld camera and no special effects.
These two shots are my favourite ones. Just look at how much two silhouettes convey about the film and the characters and how perfect they are photographed. Hooray for B&W!

Naturally, the trip doesn't go well and all return home to Catriona, wet but safe and Joan has lost all of her luggage, including the satin wedding dress that she worshipped (imagine, a new dress made out of satin in the middle of the war!). It falls upon Catriona to tell Joan what she's never been told her whole life: "money isn't everything".
The next morning and the sea is safe enough to cross. You already know what happens next, but I won't tell you how they get together, aside from that it's romantic with just a touch of the Gothic.

1 comment:

Isolde said...

Lovely synopsis. This is my all-time favourite film, hand's down, and even though I'm a cheapskate I paid over $30 for the Criterion Collection dvd without even blinking. Have you read BFI's 100 page monoghraph on IKWIK? Used it's just a few dollars on Amazon.