Blu-Ray Review – When The Wind Blows

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When The Wind Blows [rating=4]

I remember the feeling when the teacher in school would wheel in the old CRT TV unit to watch an educational video for the remainder of the lesson – or ‘Uncle Buck’, every classroom seemed to be equip with a copy of that. Regardless of what was shown it was always a stress-free way to pass the time in class, but all that changed the moment my History class were shown ‘When The Wind Blows’ for the first time. My fifteen year old mind wasn’t prepared for the utter devastation that this at first seemingly harmless animation about a couple living life in a time of war would bring. We were given no context before watching, no description of the film other than they lived during a time of war. When the bell rang after forty-five minutes of viewing and the film was shut off I knew I couldn’t wait another few days until next class to see how it ended. I was gripped, so after school I ran to the local library before closing to find a copy and finish the film. Now eleven years later BFI have kindly sent me a copy of the newly released Blu-Ray & DVD dual-format edition for review that I have watched again for the first time since back then – and it is just as powerful as the first viewing.

‘When The Wind Blows’ is a 1986 animated feature film directed by the man who brought ‘The Snowman’ from page-to-screen,  Jimmy T. Murakami, and like the latter is also an adaptation of a Raymond Briggs picture book. The story follows Jim and Hilda Bloggs (both voiced wonderfully by Sir John Mills and Dame Peggy Ashcroft respectively) a middle-aged married couple living a quiet life in the secluded countryside. Upon hearing a radio broadcast announcing a nuclear war beginning in only a matter of days, the couple put their faith in the government as they prepare for the attack by following a government issued booklet called ‘Protect and Serve’ – which was the real-life advice booklet issued at the time of the war. Jim begins removing all the doors from his home and nailing them all together in a row to create an in-home shelter to lean against his living room wall and lines the inside and outside with cushions – much to his wife’s bemusement. Following the booklet word-for-word, Jim rushes out to the local shop to panic buy the listed supplies to store inside the shelter such as; ginger-nut biscuits, pineapple chunks, tea, paper bags, sanitary products and bread – a very specific list indeed. As the warning broadcast to take cover is aired and the pair take shelter under their incredibly cramped and narrow wooden shelter, you see just how difficult living becomes for the pair with Hilda even attempting to leave the shelter early on several occasions and the pair feeling ill after a few days.

It is the naivety and innocence of the Bloggs’ that makes ‘When The Wind Blows’ both an amusing and harrowing experience with the tone shifting from light to heavy throughout it’s runtime as the nuclear attack gets closer and then in the aftermath and how it impacts. The story is indeed very touching and the animation is beautifully presented using a blend of both live-action and hand-drawn animation to tell the story which made it all the more striking to me. The dual-format edition is presented in high definition in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 with 2.0 stereo sound which looks and sounds fantastic, as well as coming with a whole host of great special features including a great audio commentary track, a making of short film and an interview with director Jimmy T. Murakami called Non Alien that I highly recommend.

The animation is beautiful, the score by Roger Waters and title song by David Bowie are a delight and the impactful story all hold up to this day. ‘When The Wind Blows’ is a fantastic film that must be seen and is still as great a watch as it was first time around.

You can buy the dual-format edition from BFI here.