Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Review - When the Wind Blows (1986 - Dir. Jimmy T. Murakami)

I mentioned recently in my review of Dr Strangelove that the threat of nuclear war was all too real for me in my teenage years. I'm not surprised when I was watching stuff like When the Wind Blows.

James and Hilda Bloggs are your average elderly couple. They lived through World War II and all of the hardships that that entailed. He's gone out to work all is life, while she's stayed at home looking after the house and children (I'm inferring this from the dialogue, their age and her love of clean cushions). Finally he reaches retirement age and what happens? A nuclear war is on the cards between Russia and America. Typical. In preparation, he nips out and procures some government pamphlets on surviving the nuclear holocaust. Everyone loves a good pamphlet.

This surely must be up there as one of the most upsetting and depressing animations. The book was by Raymond Briggs but this isn't The Snowman. Watching a couple of pensioners try to cope with a nuclear bomb and the aftermath is not pleasant viewing despite often being really funny. The humour is often bittersweet. Laughter would occur followed by a realisation of the implications, resulting in yet more depression.

The main source of humour comes from Hilda and her relentless drive towards wanting to have a neat tidy house and keep up appearances. Couple this with Jim's relentless drive towards following governmental instructions, such as, building a shelter out of the house's doors or whitewashing the windows, and you can see where the two may clash. (As a side note, I can't see anyone following governmental instructions now. They'd have to use reverse psychology on us.) 

You may have twigged that the characters are pretty one dimensional, and yes, they are. In the latter half, it almost becomes a little tiresome to hear Hilda make a completely naive comment about what the neighbours will think if they pop round, or hear Jim talk, naively again, about popping out to the shops to get supplies. I say almost, because it is their complete belief in normality resuming that makes the film so upsetting. When a chink appears in their armour at the very end of the film it is even more powerful. A mention has to go to Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills for their perfect voice work.

The film is made using a mixture of styles: the backgrounds are all models and shot using stop-motion animation and the two characters are traditional cel-drawn animation. The model backgrounds allow the camera greater freedom of movement, giving it a different and more depressing feel than usual. Watching Jim sweep up real rubbish makes it all so much more realistic. The whole film looks very atmospheric and bleak (I was bound to love this, wasn't I?).

As a teenager, I always hoped that if they did start dropping bombs, that they landed right on top of my house. I worked out that they'd probably bomb Sheffield so I'd be on the edge of the blast. I didn't really want to suffer the after effects of the bomb. Watching this again now makes it all too obvious to me why I had these thoughts.

If you like this you could also try:
Threads, Barefoot Gen.


  1. I think I saw this one a while ago, don't remember much aboout it. I should give it a rewatch! I don't know if It will win me over, as you say it's quite bleak. It looks like an animation that's suitable for an adult audience, rather than kids.

    By the way, I reviewed a few of those Lucio Fulci horror films you recommended today:

    1. It certainly is aimed at adults. I think children would come out of it traumatised.

      I've give the reviews a read. Like the film above Fulci likes his bleakness.