1 January 2018

THE BFI PRESENTS: RAYMOND BRIGGS' 'WHEN THE WIND BLOWS.' (1986) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. (1986) DIRECTED BY JIMMY T. MURAKAMI. WRITTEN BY RAYMOND BRIGGS. BASED ON RAYMOND BRIGGS' GRAPHIC NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME. STARRING JOHN MILLS AND DAME PEGGY ASHCROFT. TITLE SONG BY DAVID BOWIE. ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK BY ROGER WATERS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Jim: 'Have you got a nice clean shirt for me, dear, ready for the bomb?'
Hilda: 'I don't want that spoiled. Wear an old one for the bomb, and you can keep your good one for best.'

Jim, later: 'We might be rounded up and put in concentration camps!'
Hilda: 'We're not Jews, dear.'

Hilda, later, once the 'bomb' goes off: 'The cake will be burned...!'

Aw, what's Christmas without a nice bit of Raymond Briggs on 't telly? We've all been watching THE SNOWMAN every Christmas since about twenty years before it was even written, lol, that's how long it's been going on.

Other of his festive favourites include THE BEAR and FATHER CHRISTMAS, sometimes known as ANOTHER BLOOMIN' CHRISTMAS, each based on more of his graphic novels.

All of his stories have a sort of bitter-sweet sadness attached to them as well as seasonal joy, and the beautifully-animated WHEN THE WIND BLOWS is perhaps the most bitter-sweet movie of all of his works.

It manages to be both humorous and horrifically macabre in its depiction of how an elderly English couple cope with one of the most chilling possibilities (they're only possibilities, aren't they? I mean, it's not definite, right guys? Guys...?) of the modern era... A nuclear holocaust...

Jim and Hilda Bloggs are a lovely old married couple who've retired to Sussex, though not to keep bees like a certain detective. They're based on Briggs' own parents, Ethel and Ernest, and they're the nicest, most loving couple imaginable, together till death do us part since before the war.

Their cottage is isolated and charmingly rural. They have a son called Ron who's married to Beryl and these live elsewhere with their child, although they keep in touch by telephone.

Jim regularly travels to the public library to read the newspapers and thereby 'keep abreast of the international situation,' just like they would have done during the Second World War. The international situation referred to in the film is the possibility of a nuclear strike by the Russians or 'Russkies.'

Jim is optimistic that this won't happen but he's determined to keep up with developments nonetheless, while all of this war talk just goes right over the houseproud Hilda's head. She's got the washing to hang up...!

Jim starts to ready the house for the possibility of a nuclear strike, 'just in case,' as per the instructions issued in the 'governmental directive.' This is the one piece of information available to them on what to do in the event of a nuclear strike.

The film makes its point very well here. The fact that this governmental pamphlet is 'the maximim protection afforded to the populace' is nothing short of terrifying. Nothing in it turns out to be of any real use to anyone.

The worst happens and the 'bomb' hits England. It's a million times worse than the hurricane in 'THE WIZARD OF OZ.' A terrific shock strikes Jim and Hilda's little house, while they tremble inside the makeshift shelter Jim has constructed, the 'inner core or refuge as per the governmental directive.' When they emerge two days later, it's to a much changed world. Life as they know it has been decimated utterly.

Their house is trashed, the countryside has been burned and all their services, utilities and communication systems have been destroyed, along with all the people who provide them. There's no clean water to drink, fresh food to eat or even unpoisoned air to breathe. 

Jim keeps telling Hilda that the emergency services will roll into action at any moment, just like they did in World War Two, and then they'll both be saved.

The saddest thing about this film is the way that both Jim and Hilda look back so fondly on World War Two and imagine that all they'll have to do to beat this new threat is to roll up their sleeves, tighten their belts, put their shoulders to the wheel and their noses to the grindstone.
Just like they did in the good old days of the Blitz, see?

They imagine that there'll be rationing, a few evacuations ('Kids from London seeing cows for the first time!'), Anderson and Morrison bomb shelters, of which they have fond memories, and maybe a curfew and a few black-outs. Jim might even have to be an air-raid warden wearing a hard hat and carrying a little flashlight.

They look back fondly on Stalin ('Uncle Joe...!'), Churchill, Field-Marshal Monty Montgomery and even mean ornery old Adolf Hitler, saying nostalgically and without a trace of irony that 'you knew where you were with those guys.' 

Jim admits openly to not having a clue who the big guys of today are. The big personalities of World War Two were quite possibly never to be repeated. Indeed, they were one-offs rather, weren't they?

The point of the film is that Jim and Hilda, who stand as metaphors for their entire country, have no idea whatsoever what a nuclear strike against them will actually entail. As they try to cope with the treacherously invisible nuclear fallout, unaware that they're dying slowly from radiation poisoning, they apply the now wholly defunct principles of World War Two to this new situation. The woeful inadequacy of these old principles, and their total inability to be adapted to suit this new and deadlier kind of warfare, is plain for the viewer to see.

I won't elaborate any further as it's just too heartbreaking. Jim's blind faith in the government, in particular the government's ability to steer the country safely home through another crisis, is just so sad and sweet and misplaced.

The truth is that the 'powers-that-be' have no more clue what to do in this situation than the naïve and innocent Bloggs family. It's all just too, too sad. It'd bring tears to the eyes of a heavily-Botoxed television presenter, that's how tragic it all is.

Suffice it to say that WHEN THE WIND BLOWS will be available to buy from the BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE from January 22nd, 2018. Yes, I'm early but I couldn't wait, lol. It comes in a nice Blu-Ray and DVD Dual Format Edition and it has some truly splendiferous extra features attached.

These include a feature-length documentary about the film's director, Jimmy T. Murakami, a charming interview with Raymond Briggs conducted in his actual workspace, an illustrated booklet with a new introduction by Raymond Briggs and guess what else?

The pièce de resistance here has got to be PROTECT AND SURVIVE, the fifty-minute information film from 1975 that was designed to be broadcast when a nuclear attack was imminent.

I don't know if this particular film was ever shown on television at any point but I'm going straight off now myself to watch it as I'm dying of curiosity to find out just how helpful (or not!) it would have been in the event of an actual all-out nuclear strike. All together now: 'Oh, we'll all go together when we go...!'

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com









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