Saturday, 4 April 2015
When The Wind Blows (1986)
There are many nuclear holocaust films out there - most notably the utterly shittifying Threads and The War Game, which was made in the 1960s but banned until the '80s - but Jimmy T. Murakami's animated film When The Wind Blows, based on Raymond (The Snowman) Briggs' graphic novel of the same name, stands out from the crowd in being small and parochial in focus and all the more moving and hard hitting as a result.
Elderly retired couple Jim and Hilda Bloggs (superbly voiced by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) live an idyllic and quaint life in an isolated cottage in the Sussex countryside when the unthinkable happens - The Cold War heats up. Jim, who has been down the local library collecting government and county council pamphlets (such as the now infamous propaganda that was Protect and Survive) newspapers and books, determinedly sets about following their advice and builds a shelter in the home with doors and cushions, to the bemusement of Hilda as she continues with the everyday domestic duties around him.
Their relationship, their innocent and amusing prattling about the Second World War and the Blitz - the only international conflict they can properly understand, thanks to their experience of it - are instantly familiar to the audience, especially if they are British and have or had parents or grandparents of Jim and Hilda's era; indeed the characters were actually based on Briggs' own parents. It is these scenes when the film is at its warmest and funniest but, like the false sense of security our two leads are displaying, we too sober up to the fact that their naivety and trust in the powers that be are misplaced and that their defensive actions are utterly futile against what those powers have done to the world. We are about to experience a chilling, painfully affecting and utterly poignant turn of events that is all the more striking because it occurs to 'real' people we are instantly familiar with.
One of the best and most powerful animated films, to say nothing of being one of the most important films of the 1980s, the message of When The Wind Blows is just as vital today and will continue to remain so for as long as global powers insist on nuclear armaments and their inherent 'protection' and threat. Ultimately, Briggs and Murakami's question to the consciences of those in power and those ardent believers in nuclear weaponry is, could you really allow this to everyman people like Jim and Hilda?