And you thought Grave of the Fireflies was bad. I’d imagine it’s possible to a lot of people reading this, the name Raymond Briggs means one thing and that’s The Snowman, no, not the Michael Fassbender moping in the snow and solving murders epic or last year but the charming Christmas classic of a child going on an adventure with their snowman who’s come to life. It seems odd to be discussing a complete other film this early in the review but I only do so to say that if the only thing you know of Raymond Briggs is The Snowman, well, prepare to be surprised because quite definitely, The Snowman this is not.
When The Wind Blows is an impressive story in that it, like the best stories of a political statement, both grand and sweeping but also incredibly well-observed and intimate. It’s the story of Joe and Hilda Bloggs (loosely based on Briggs’ own parents), a couple just trying to get on and lives their existence despite living in the outcome of a nuclear attack upon Britain. It’s an intriguing premise: equal parts Samuel Beckett, Alan Bennett & Bertolt Brecht but wrapped up in an endearing mix of hand-drawn animation atop photo-realistic backgrounds (with blocks of stock footage thrown in as well) that really helps sell the world around it. The movements used are simplistic but not limited as the film’s elliptical structure and frequent flights of fantasy and visual flourishes are brilliantly observed. Despite the scope of animation to show the full span of chaos, keeping its focus insular only serves to heighten the intensity. It also helps that as the main couple, John Mills & Peggy Ashcroft are a pair of class acts, using only their voices, they make every exchange feel lived-in and drenched in the history of a long-married pair.
The dialogue can occasionally slip more into an unrealistic style as if the couple are reading from a public service broadcast which does serve to slightly undersell the true emotional heft of the situation, as the piece isn’t exactly presented as a true piece of realism to begin with it can be excused but there is a hint of hammering home the point too hard to it though especially in historical context, it was a point thoroughly in need of making and Roger Waters’ score can range between well-balanced to laying the atmosphere on a bit too thick but even it’s downsides aren’t too bad as they don’t really detract too heavily from what is a superb overall presentation.
It’s worth noting that this new edition of When The Wind Blows really is a great set with an informative audio commentary and intriguingly the option to watch but without the dialogue, highlighting some of the subtle complexities of the music and sound design, documentary features on the film and its directer, an interview with Raymond Briggs and most interestingly, an actual piece of archive material in the form of a legitimate public service broadcast commissioned to be played in the event of a nuclear attack. Accompanied aswell with a lovely booklet full of extra interviews and short articles about the film, it really is a complete package. On top of that, you’re getting a truly great film with a still uncomfortably timely message considering aggressions between a certain United States and a Northern Korea, so really, what more could you ask for?
Dir: Jimmy Murakami
Scr: Raymond Briggs
Cast: Peggy Ashcroft, John Mills
Prd: John Coates
Music: Roger Waters
Run time: 80 minutes
When The Wind Blows Is Out on DVD & DHD Now.