Film fans gather on Mull to celebrate 75th anniversary of I Know Where I’m Going

It was a classic, subversive movie shot largely on the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides and with a subtle subtext epitomising the desire for a more equal and just society in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.
Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Now the iconic Western Isles Hotel overlooking Tobermory Bay, which is mentioned by name and features in a number of scenes in the film, is preparing to welcome film fans from around the world as it gears up for the 75th anniversary of I Know Where I’m Going, (1945) the acclaimed Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film.

Martin Scorsese, a long-time fan of Oscar-winning Powell’s film-making genius and who discovered the film while working on Raging Bull has said he was greatly impressed by it.

He said: “I just saw a new masterpiece ... I reached the point of thinking there were no more masterpieces to discover, until I saw I Know Where I’m Going.”

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    Amongst the guests due to attend the celebrations are Powell’s widow, Thelma, Emeric Pressburger’s grandson, the Scottish film producer Andrew Macdonald, who worked on Trainspotting, and film expert Professor Ian Christie from Birkbeck, the University of London.

    Events planned for 16-18 October include a special screening of the film in the Great Hall at Duart Castle, one of the locations used, and another screening at the Western Isles Hotel as well as a dinner and talk by a film expert.

    The Victorian hotel – affectionately known as “the Grand Old Lady” – overlooking Tobermory Bay on Mull, which itself featured in a number of scenes will be the setting for a special screening of the film and a guided tour by Professor Robert Beveridge, professor of media policy, University of Sassari, Sardinia.

    The film, often referred to as IKWIG in honour of its listing in the original credits, centres on a determined young English woman, Joan Webster (played by Wendy Hiller), heading to the fictional island of Kiloran, actually Colonsay, off Mull, to marry Sir Robert Bellinger, a wealthy industrialist. A storm prevents her leaving Mull and she eventually falls in love with impoverished naval officer Torquil MacNeil, played by Roger Livesey – who she does not know is the Laird of Kiloran – who has been forced to rent out his island to her fiancé.

    One of the pivotal scenes is where she says to Torquil: “People round here are very poor” and he replies, “No, they’re not, they’ve just got no money.”

    Beveridge, the originator of the celebratory weekends, said: “The film has resonated with people across the decades for two particular reasons. Firstly,it’s a wonderful love story, but it’s also a plea for the values of community against materialism.

    Film experts have said the film was unusual for its realistic depiction of the Inner Hebrides rather than mocked-up film sets.

    The hotel housed naval officer during the Second World War while they were on training missions.

    Ray Fox-Cumming, one of the four co-owners of the hotel and a former arts correspondent at The Observer, said: “The film’s outstanding feature was that it showed what life was like in the Hebrides at the time. Nothing was prettied up. There was also more Gaelic spoken and in song, than usual.

    “Hiller is seen walking up the hill to the hotel and stays in one of our rooms overlooking Tobermory Bay. Some scenes were also shot in our bar, now our private dining room.”