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
Michael Powell, the distinguished English director, was a man of vision. He takes us on a voyage to a remote place in order to set his drama about what the inhabitants of the mythical Hirta, in the Hebrides, were going through. The film was actually filmed in Fulla, in the Shetland Islands, which resembles its model. The original island of St. Kilda had been deemed the last place on earth as the Romans sailed the area and since the island resembles a wall rising from the sea, it must have appeared that way to those explorers. Mr. Powell was lucky in working with the producer Joe Rock, whose generosity made this early film worth discovering.
The film opens with a shot of the island from the sea. We see the island rise from the water, as the Romans might have seen it. Little has changed in the place, except now it's deserted. The people of the island have long gone over the mainland because it was hard for them to make a living in that barren and inhospitable place. The island is now a bird sanctuary. The yacht is commandeered by Andrew Gray, who has left the place and now his memories of that turbulent past come back to him.
We go back in a flashback to know what happened in the island some time ago. We see the Manson family as they prepare for church. Peter, the patriarch, has two children, Ruth and Robbie. Andrew Gray is in love with the beautiful Ruth. Later in a competition to get to the top of the highest spot in the island Robbie suffers a tragic accident. Andrew decides to leave for the main land with his father's blessings, but Ruth is left with child, not knowing how to contact Andrew. When the whole population decides to leave, Peter Manson, reluctantly agrees, but tragedy intervenes when a terrible accident occurs.
The acting is magnificent. John Laurie is seen as Peter Manson, the man whose love for the land is his passion. Belle Chrystall plays Ruth the gorgeous island girl in love with Andrew. Eric Berry and Niall MacGinnis are Robbie and Andrew and Finlay Currie makes James Gray come alive.
"The Edge of the World" shows a Michael Powell in great form. Mr. Powell must have taken a tremendous chance by even filming in that remote place, but he is rewarded by a timeless film that will live forever.
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