A trio wanders the cliffs of an Outer Hebridean island and encounters a gravestone at the edge of a precipice; it reads, "Peter Manson ... gone over." One man in the trio knows the story of the gravestone and tells it to the others... It is ten years earlier, and the way of life on the island is dying; steam trawlers from the mainland threaten its survival as a fishing port. Peter Manson, one of the community's leaders, resists evacuating to the mainland, though his son Robbie is about to leave the island himself. Meanwhile, Robbie's twin sister plans to marry his best friend, Andrew Gray. Andrew and Robbie argue over evacuation and decide to settle the matter by racing to the top of a cliff. Ruth is terrified: she may lose them both. The race ends in tragedy, which tears apart the families of Manson and Gray. Times passes and Ruth reveals she is pregnant with an illegitimate child. This promises to bring the two families back together, but not before desperation hits the islanders. ... Written by
Odd little film directed by Michael Powell long before his huge success once teamed with Emeric Pressburger.
Subtitled "the death of an island," the film chronicles the dreary lives of island folk as seen in flashback by the former residents years after. Victims of the changing world, commercialized fishing, and isolation, the islanders finally pack it in and move to the mainland after the death of one young man and a near miss with a baby.
Set in an era before electricity and telephones the film shows just how isolated the people are on the various islands north of Scotland. Independent and stubborn, they cling to their rock even though they know the end is coming.
The story is slim: the young people are in crisis of whether to stay and keep the island going or go to the mainland and get good-paying jobs. The story shows us their lives on the island of Hirta (which means death) and the draw of the cities.
Almost shot in documentary form, Powell constantly shows us the majestic beauty of the sparse rock of island versus the drab lives of the people. Their lives are built around church, social interaction, and trying to keep going.
The acting is minimal with a few familiar faces. John Laurie is the hard father who sees his son (Eric Berry) die in a stupid accident while climbing the face of sea rock. Belle Chrystall is Ruth and Niall MacGinnes is Robbie. Finlay Currie co-stars.
The island scenery is just gorgeous and Powell has a good eye for the incredible backdrops of sea and rock and waving grasses.
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