Animated: Twilight Time - When The Wind Blows

Michelle reviews the animated film, When The Wind Blows.

Though I was a young child for most of the ‘80s, I do remember some of the nuclear hysteria that accompanied the Cold War. I remember having nightmares about being blown up by atomic bombs and the fact that it could happen at any time frightened me immensely. Thankfully, the powers that be came to their senses (for the most part) and the crisis was averted. However, this part of my childhood kindled a lifelong fascination with post-apocalyptic nuke stories/films for me. Films such as The Day After and Threads simultaneously intrigued and terrified me. While these films took a much more direct and realistic approach to “mass assured destruction”, there were other, more subtle, films made about the dangers of nuclear war. When the Wind Blows is one such film.

When the Wind Blows is an animated movie based on a graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, who is most well-known for his charming work The Snowman, which was also adapted into an animated film. The Snowman is beautiful and whimsical, which is a stark contrast to the grim tale he tells with When the Wind Blows. The story centers on an adorable old couple, James and Hilda Bloggs, who live out in the isolated English countryside. Nuclear war is looming over them and the husband and wife have to prepare both themselves and their home to survive the atomic blast. The couple are portrayed as very simple and na├»ve, almost childlike in a way, which makes the situation even more desperate. It’s frustrating to watch them fumble through all the emergency preparations because we know how truly devastating the effects of nuclear war can be.

The animation style is classic Briggs, with his soft, rosy-cheeked character designs and storybook pastel color scheme. It’s suited to a much more fanciful style tale, but serves as an interesting disparity to the somber tone. While most of the animation is hand drawn, there is some clever use of stop-motion for both the foreground and the actual model of the house itself. It allows the “camera” to rotate around the environment in a novel way and is effective. There are times when the art style deconstructs itself into wispy pencil lines and whirly scribbles, mostly when the main characters are daydreaming or remembering past events. All of it comes together to make a cohesive work and it is a pleasure to watch.

Jimmy Murakami directed both When the Wind Blows and The Snowman and did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of both graphic novels. I have read the books and both of these movies follow the stories almost exactly. While this isn’t always necessary when adapting books, Briggs’ style just lends itself to the process of animation so well—his novels basically serve as storyboards. Both of these men working in tandem is an incredible combination of passion and talent. The soundtrack is great as well with songs by David Bowie and Roger Waters adding to the atmosphere.

Viewers should be forewarned: this film will rip your heart right out of its chest and crush its still quivering mass into a bloody mess of despair. When the Wind Blows is second only to Grave of the Fireflies for the “saddest animated film” award. You will be a blubbering, sobbing mess by the end of this movie. However, that is exactly the point, it’s supposed to make you feel for these people and lament their completely avoidable suffering. I’m not sure how much pull these films had at the time or how much weight was given to them, but in a time of fear and uncertainty, it was all these artists had to express themselves.  What better medium than animation to use to paint a prophetic picture of what the future may hold for humanity?

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-Michelle Kisner