The Edge of the World (1937)

Dir. Michael Powell / UK / Drama, Historical, Romance / B&W / 81m

Filmed on location on Foula in the Shetland Isles, and inspired by the story of the evacuation of St Kilda, this is an evocative tale in which the story and the filming itself was moulded by the dramatic cliffs and treacherous seas of its setting. Powerful yet simple this film marked the great Michael Powell's first independent feature, from his own original idea.

The inspiration for the story came when Powell read an article about the tragic evacuation of the island of St Kilda whose aging population could not sustain life there. He believed there was a story to be told of a proud people defeated by nature and the creeping threat of modernity. His film follows two young men, Robbie Manson (Eric Berry) and James Gray (Niall MacGinnis), who disagree on their island's economic future. James loves Robbie's twin sister Ruth (Belle Chrystall). The rivalry between the two men and their strong-willed fathers threatens to tear apart the island community, but an unexpected pregnancy and a rescue in dangerous seas serve to unite the islanders in common purpose. The intimate human story reflects the wider story of a community frightened of change.

Exquisitely photographed in black and white, the film's magnificent locations showcase Scotland at its wild best. The presence in the film of the real inhabitants of Foula, along with the bravery of the extras and main cast (particularly in the cliff-face sequences which the cast performed themselves), give the film a grandeur and authenticity that vindicates Powell’s belief in his elemental story.

edge of the world

Return to the Edge of the World (1978)

Follow-up film to Michael Powell's original 1937 feature. Commissioned by the BBC, this 24 minute documentary sees Powell return to Foula with his cast and crew to reminisce on the making of the original, including stories of how they were themselves marooned on the island by weeks of gales.

return to the edge of the world

The natural connection

Foula, Lerwick

Natural Scotland Films is part of the Year of Natural Scotland

year of natural scotland

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