Do you find yourself dangerously un-depressed? I recommend a viewing of When the Wind Blows. It's a feature-length animated film by the writer and director who created The Snowman, a charming silent cartoon about the a who goes on a magical adventure to the land of snowmen. In When the Wind Blows, author Raymond Briggs and director Jimmy Murakami decided to go in a rather different direction, subject matter-wise: it's the story of an elderly english couple slowly dying of radiation poisoning following a nuclear apocalypse.

It's an interesting film. The animation is both lovely and harrowing, and it's heartbreaking to watch Jim and Hilda slowly waste away without having any real idea what's happening to them. Jim and Hilda don't begin preparing for disaster until a few days before the bombs fall and rely for their preparations entirely upon a pair of government pamphlets. They expect the experience to be much like World War II, which they both lived through as children. For Jim, particularly, the coming of war is both serious and exciting. He grew up playing at soldiers with Churchill and Goering, Montgomery and Rommel as characters in his imagination, and the prospect of war gives him an opportunity to relive those fantasies. The war lets him recapture his childhood, and his failure to grasp that this war is different makes the couples's demise the more tragic.

Which isn't to say that it makes their death more likely. The film serves as an indictment of the leaders of the time, who are portrayed as having failed their people by giving them too many false assurances and too little useful information. To get the jabs the film is making you should view this public service video, Protect and Survive as context. It's sort of the English version of Duck and Cover, but far less cheerful and far more disturbing. Equally useless, but scary. Yet, in a way, not. The message seems to be "Sorry, there's been a bit of a cock-up and its brought about the end of the world. But don't worry, even after the apocalypse the government will still be there for you to set things right. The wheels of bureaucracy will continue to turn, and the wagon will be 'round on Monday to pick up your dead, so be sure to have them properly labelled, bagged, and tagged."

The animation itself is an interesting mix of live-action film footage, traditional animation, and rotoscoping, which before Richard Linklater rediscovered it was a technique used to give standard animation a creepy uncanny valley feeling. The mix works surprisingly well. I'm normally not a fan of clashing video styles, but Murakami blends things pretty seamlessly. It all fits together to create a film that is both beautiful and bleak.

When the Wind Blows is deeply affecting and powerful. Plus it has opening and ending music by David Bowie, and who doesn't like that? Highly recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on March 18, 2007 10:59 PM.

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