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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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When the wind blows


Nuclear war.

We can’t really fathom the unadulterated dread, the pure fear these two words carried for previous generations. Why should we? Nuclear war stopped being threatening around the time most of us were being born, learning to speak, learning to walk. The bombs may still exist, but the actual threat of war is an artifact of a time long passed. It’s ancient history.

But for our parents and our grandparents, nuclear war was a very real threat. They lived in ever-present fear of those bombs descending on their cities and levelling their houses and killing all their friends and family, making their hometowns uninhabitable for decades. But the government knew what to do, and they regularly sent out pamphlets to the frightened populus, informing them of exactly what they had to do if they wanted to survive a possible nuclear holocaust.

These pamphlets should have addressed the people truthfully, telling them exactly what the effects of a nuclear bomb were and exactly how they could survive—and if not survive, then at least prolong their existence.

They didn’t.

When The Wind Blows, an animated film based on the Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name, confronts this knowing deceit with unflinching realism. Joe and Hilda Bloggs, a genial retired couple living in the English countryside and our protagonists, are from a simpler, more innocent time, when the government knew what was best for you and for the world. They squabble over little things, they occupy themselves with each other and their house, and they still deeply love each other. When I first saw this, it struck me that they reminded me of my grandparents. They may remind you of your grandparents. They’re a lovely old couple, and you wouldn’t want to wish a RickRoll on them, let alone a nuclear bomb.

However, the radio tells the Bloggs it’s three days until exactly that. Jim gets to work building an enclave in their lounge made out of their house doors, just like the government pamphlets tell him. He does everything by the pamphlets—real pamphlets, actually published in England during the Cold War.

Then the bomb strikes.

It’s not hard to guess what happens next, but underneath the viciously effective critique of the approach of Western governments to the threat of nuclear war—coddling the public instead of manning up and telling them the truth—there’s a harrowing, poignant tale of an old couple who have been betrayed by their own innocence and blind trust in authority, and pay the ultimate price as a result. Briggs and director Jimmy T. Murakami have crafted a film that doesn’t hold back in its presentation of the effects of nuclear war, taking the nicest people you’ll ever know and using them to show us the truth. A truth not even those who knew the most about nuclear bombs told the public when this film was made. And if you don’t care for the politics, watch this anyway—the final half of the film, with the Bloggs slowly succumbing to radiation while desperately trying to restore normality to their life, has more emotion and intelligence than any Hollywood drama today.

It’s clichéd to say, but watch When The Wind Blows. Watch it as soon as you can.

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