Cinepub


The Depress-A-Thon: When The Wind Blows by Jamie

The Cold War era was a great time for depressing media. The nuclear threat cast it’s long, dark shadow all across the globe as the threat of complete destruction was, for one of the first times in human history, very real. From the 50s you had the awesome nuclear safety videos telling people what to do in case of a bomb being dropped such as the infamous ‘Duck and Cover’ which seemed to serve no purpose other than ensuring you died looking like an idiot.

It was this era that gave rise to some of the great post-apocalyptic films as well. ‘Mad Max’, ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and ‘Terminator’ all owe something to growing fear over the complete annihilation of mankind but these films weren’t particularly true to life and largely dealt with the consequences of the apocalypse rather than the apocalypse itself. It is those films which deal with an actual nuclear attack and it’s consequences that are truly the most terrifying and depressing, things like ‘The Day After’, ‘Threads’ and the subject of today’s review ‘When The Wind Blows’.(Spoilers Ahead)

The film is an animated feature and if you’ve ever seen the charming, though also ultimately rather depressing, children’s Christmas film ‘The Snowman’ then the animation style should be rather familiar to you. The story follows Jim (John Mills) and Hilda Bloggs (Peggy Ashcroft), a retired couple living in a remote cottage somewhere in rural Sussex. Jim has become increasingly worried about the possibility of a nuclear strike against Britain and so has decided to follow governmental guidelines and build himself a bomb shelter out a few doors. Hilda is less concerned but indulges Jim in his paranoia, helping him when she can as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with her daily chores.

Both members of the Bloggs family are generally quite optimistic about what would happen if the bomb were to fall. Both grew up during the blitz and have fond memories of nights spent in Anderson Shelter’s and communities coming together to help each other in times of need. Jim in particular is incredibly trusting in the government and it’s ability to continue running the country in a forthright and proper manner should war break out. Neither of them seem to fully understand just exactly what a nuclear attack would mean for them and the people of Britain.

Jim finishes his shelter and, with Hilda’s help, begins to stock it with everything they need to survive the 48 weeks (which Jim later realises is actually 48 hours, a mistake made by his misreading of the official governmental pamphlet) he believes they are required to stay within the shelter to bypass the fallout from the bomb. Suddenly an announcement comes over the radio. The unthinkable has happened. The bomb is on its way. Jim and Hilda scramble to get into their homemade shelter and the explosion rocks their cottage.

The rest of the film deals with the aftermath of the bomb and the effect it has on Jima and Hilda as they re-emerge from their shelter. They find a world in which the countryside they live in is practically entirely dead, their water supply is cut off and even the milk and postmen haven’t managed to make their daily rounds.

Of course Jim isn’t too worried. He theorises that there are bound to be delays during the emergency period that immediately follows the bomb. He’s also adamant that the government are working as quickly as possible to sort everything out and get all of the countries basic infrastructure up and running again. He’s also sure that emergency medical teams will be making the rounds as well, checking up on people, which is a good thing because it seems as though the shock of the bomb is having detrimental effects on both his and Hilda’s health. Jim, it seems, is completely ignorant of the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation.

As the days pass, Jim and Hilda succumb more and more to the effects of radiation poisoning and help still doesn’t seem to becoming. Eventually they decide to crawl back into their shelter, just in case a second bomb is dropped. The film ends with the couple praying before it fades to black.

All in all the film is a stark look at just what effects the bomb would have on people who are in regions that lay outside a major target such as London. There’s would be a slow, agonising death brought on by exposure to the radioactive fallout. Despite this the film is actually quite comical in nature, with much of the comedy coming from Jim’s adherence to the governmental outlines, the couples quintessential Britishness and the couples general ignorance about the consequences of a nuclear attack. There impression of what will happen is coloured by their experiences during the blitz and they expect much the same will happen this time. Of course, it’s this ignorance of the consequences which ultimately spells Jim and Hilda’s doom.

It’s a poignant, funny yet ultimately depressing film that I really do recommend. If there’s one criticism I can make it’s that there are occasional trippy little musical sequences, in particular during a scene where Hilda is hanging up her washing whilst Jim builds his shelter, which seem to serve no purpose and really just doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Otherwise it’s another excellent example of a brilliantly depressing film based on events which, at the time of it’s production, seemed all too possible. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

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