Roman Invasion: Allusion in The Archer’s Classic I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING

3 November 2013

In brief, I Know Where I’m Going is the story of a woman who, believe this or not, thinks she knows where she is going, in life that is.  Engaged to a wealthy cooperate tycoon, Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) bids her father goodbye in England, boarding a train to the (fictitious) Scottish Isle of Kiloran where her fiancé resides.  The trip to Kiloran is grueling, and just when Joan reaches the final leg of her journey, which is a boat ride, a dense fog sets in on the Scottish coast, postponing Joan’s arrival in Kiloran until the weather clears.  Unfortunately, the weather gets worse before it gets better, offering Joan the opportunity to meet some of the local residents, including a naval officer Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), on leave from the service.  He, too, is awaiting the boat for Kiloran.  Immediately, a chemistry between Joan and Torquil appears, but Joan believes she knows what she wants, and is unwilling to discover any feelings that may alter her well laid plans of marrying for money. Torquil, on the other hand, is more interested discovering this undeniable chemistry, and he spends as much time as possible with Joan.  As the film approaches its climax, Joan determination to get what she wants remains resolute; however, in the end, Joan realizes that sometimes life is about the journey, not the destination.


True film lovers know The Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and their arrow-pierced target in the opening credits.  Also, true film lovers know the signature moves of The Archers are stamped all of I Know Where I’m Going, one of their earlier collaborations, relatively speaking.  Silhouettes and atmospheric texture are only a small part of the cinematic signature The Archers infuse I Know Where I’m Going with.  Moreover, in I Know Where I’m Going The Archers also rely on allusions help shape an support their narrative and characters, and their use of Roman mythology in particular plays a significant part in this 1945 film.

Allusion is best used to pull information and emotion from one event, story, piece of art, etc into a new creation; classical allusion pull Greek, Roman, and biblical mythology into a creation.  A well-placed allusion can be invaluable to a piece because, with one reference, an infusion of thought and sentiment can be injected into the piece, connecting something new with something commonly understood from the past. In I Know Where I’m Going, Catriona (Pamela Brown) is a classical allusion; Catriona is the Roman goddess Diana, and this allusion adds some much information and understanding into the film that nearly all Catriona’s characterization is shaped by this reference.


In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt, and most often placed in the wild, surrounded by animals, most commonly hunting dogs and deer.  She has become known as the goddess of chastity, child-bearing, and the moon as well.  Diana is often depicted as young and beautiful, but is pure and known for her virginity, and, as the myths go, can become quick temper in defense of that virginity.  Moreover, at points in time, Diana has been attributed with human sacrifice.


From the first moment viewers see Catriona, The Archers intentionally and overtly portray her as a Scottish reincarnation of the Roman goddess Diana.  In the audience’s first glimpse, Catriona is walking her large hunting dogs back up to her house, just returning from a hunt; put another way, Diana, accompanied by her signature hunting dogs, emerges from the Scottish woodland and enters the film.


The next scene is inside Catriona’s dwelling, a modest middle-class environment, where she enters, releasing the pups and dangling dead rabbits, clear victory from the hunt.  She greets Torquil warmly, but Joan with less excitement.  Evident from her garb (particularly as it compares to Joan’s) and the way she jumps about the room, Catriona is a tomboy.  She is a strong, independent woman who relies on herself for survival.  This, too, is very much in the vein of Diana.  And, this side of Diana is, likely, why The Archers selected this Roman goddess for alluding.  This tomboy, outspoken female is a striking juxtaposition with Joan.  Thus, not only does the allusion help characterize Catriona, but the juxtaposition between Joan and the Diana-esque Catriona also builds upon Joan’s characterization.


Moreover, if you read Catriona on a slant, The Archers even account for the possible suggestion that, at one time, the goddess Diana was associated with human sacrifice.  Joan risks everything to get to Kiloran, recklessly boarding a small boat during a torrential storm, and nearly loses her own life.  She, likely, would have, had Torquil not run after her and boarded the vessel with her.  However, Torquil only chases Joan after a conversation with Catriona.  It is Catriona who sends Torquil to the boat.  She knows what could happen, and she has been carefully observing Torquil and Joan’s contentious yet passionate relationship.  She has every reason to believe these two people, as well as the vessel’s captain, will be killed in the seas, an offering of fools too desperate not to challenge the Scottish tempest.


Catriona is a secondary character, with considerably less on-screen time than others; however, portraying her as Diana allows The Archers to use her with built-in characterization.  There is little to reveal about Catriona; she reveals herself, as Diana, immediately, and, thus, all similarities to Diana are instantly attributed to Catriona.  Importantly, Diana is a common enough mythical figure, so an audience is aware of Diana and her traits, allowing them understand Catriona through their knowledge of Diana.

Lastly, and this, too, must be read on a slant, The Archers may have selected Diana as their classical allusion for more than one reason.  Yes, Diana serves as a perfect juxtaposition of Joan, but is it a coincidence The Archers selected a bow-totting goddess to reference in their film?  Portraying themselves as hunters, cinematic hunters of some sort, evident by their name and arrow-filled target logo, using a huntress within their films seems a playful, poignant, and calculated move.



~ by Kate Bellmore on 03/11/2013.

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