In a moment of questionable parenting, when I was five my father gave me animated adaptations of “Animal Farm” (the 1954 CIA-funded version) and “When the When Wind Blows." The former scared the hell out of me, and taught me to stay away from farms. The latter acted as a reference, an introduction to the world we live in. It also continues to haunt me.
“When the Wind Blows” tells the story of an elderly British couple oblivious to the grave state of the world beyond their quaint, countryside cottage. When nuclear war breaks out, they are left to depend on a handful of useless government-issued pamphlets, and each other. With the titular winds carrying radiation through the couple’s hilariously/tragically “fortified” home, the situation only gets bleaker.
Made back in 1986, at the tail end of the Cold War, the film still manages a timeless quality, helped by its combination of animated characters and backdrops with real-life walls and furniture. It’s slightly distressing to look at, otherworldly, yet realistic. The story is simply told, and devastatingly effective, building on universal fears of helplessness, loss and the denial of a comfortable, or at least dignified, death.
Adapted from his own graphic novel, Raymond Briggs’ script draws both blood and laughs at the expense of the couple’s naïveté, as well as the pettiness that drives politicians, and the cruel, absurd nature of war. A final kick in the gut comes in the melancholic soundtrack, provided by Roger Waters and the aptly named Bleeding Heart Band.
In a world far more connected than it was when it rushed toward mutually assured destruction, the misinformed and stranded pair at the heart of “When the Wind Blows” represents a truly terrifying concept. It is one of the many ways in which the film remains relevant, if distressingly so. And it is also beautifully animated, for 5-year-olds.
This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.