The Cold War was a state that the Western world found itself in from the end of the Second World War right up until 1991. Tensions arose between USA, with allies NATO and what is now known as Russia and their satellite states. After the war as they were the remaining two super-powers, and having such profoundly different ideologies and politics caused great tension, which was manifested in the threat of nuclear attack. This zeitgeist of paranoia and fear influenced popular culture immensely, and one of the films to be born was an adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel When the Wind Blows.
When the Wind Blows follows Jim (John Mills) and Hilda Bloggs (Peggy Ashcroft), a retired couple in rural Sussex who use every technique they’ve learnt from the Governmental instructional videos to survive a recent nuclear attack from the USSR (Russia). Unaware of the graveness of the situation they’re in, When the Wind Blows uses their confusion as a basis of dark comedy and satire.
Often forgotten among the slew of modern animations from the big production companies like Pixar, When the Wind Blows has influenced many recent films. The sense of impending doom from nuclear attack was best encompassed in The Iron Giant, while the now famous opening scenes of Up were heavily influenced by the animated segment of Jim and Hilda during the nuclear attack, which highlights their earlier life.
The great trick used in When the Wind Blows is understanding that the audience are aware of just how much trouble the protagonists are in, even when they remain clueless. It’s thoroughly dark and sinister throughout to watch as this lovable, if dim-witted couple ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ blissfully unaware that radiation poisoning is slowly affecting them. As the situation becomes more and more dire, Jim is always on hand to dismiss any fear with a line from the Government’s leaflet on surviving nuclear fallout. This is cleverly played for laughs to a point and then just becomes sad and depressing.
Director Jimmy Murakami blends hand-drawn animation with stop-motion animation to create a thoroughly unique and entirely startling film about the truth behind the nuclear war and the problems associated with blindly following the pointless instructions given by the Government.