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Home arrow Reviews arrow DVDs, Blurays, and Videos arrow When The Wind Blows (with Roger Waters soundtrack)
When The Wind Blows (with Roger Waters soundtrack) Print E-mail


The much anticipated DVD release of Raymond Briggs' cartoon, When The Wind Blows, finally gets its release in the UK and Europe on 26th September. The movie, released in 1986, is a chilling tale, given extra momentum with a wonderful, atmospheric soundtrack by Roger Waters.

It was a story inspired by the fearful days of the 1980s when the threat of nuclear war loomed heavy over the population, days when the UK government put out a booklet called "Protect and Survive", giving tips of a pretty impractical and pointless nature to a scared British populace.

When The Wind Blows relates the achingly sad, and movingly real, story of two simple, elderly people - the husband, Jim Bloggs (voiced by the late John Mills), eager to follow all the official advice and instruction, and the wife, Hilda (Dame Peggy Ashcroft), who really doesn't want to know, hoping "it'll all blow over by Christmas".

They represent the common man, and in particular the British spirit - keep a stiff upper lip, do as you are told (doing "the correct thing", a mantra repeated by Jim) and everything should be alright.

Talk of the impending war sends the couple on a nostalgia trip, looking fondly back on their childhood during World War Two - which they naively see as a taster of what the impending war will be like.

As preparations for the attack progress, problems with the government advice become more apparent. Conflicting information in their County Council booklet sends them into a tizz of indecision, and Jim's slender grasp of the facts and gravity of the situation is clear when he excitedly talks of things like "commuters" (computers), "polar submarines" (Polaris), and "tactile nuclear superiority" (tactical). And then the attack begins...

Almost two-thirds of this 81 minute film focuses on the attack, and the aftermath, with the nuclear winter that ensues. The attack itself is incredibly well rendered, using a mix of traditional hand-drawn (including colour pencil work) animation, and model work. The dynamics of a nuclear explosion must be fiendishly hard to recreate in this format, and the animators have done a good job.

When The Wind Blows DVDIn the days and weeks following the attack, the couple's decline is stark and shocking. It is a testiment to the writing and animation that it is impossible not to be touched by their plight. Indeed, some of the animators originally lined up for this project, declined it as the story was just too sad and upsetting when it reaches this final act.

Whilst the threat of nuclear attack is much reduced these days, When The Wind Blows still provides a chilling warning of the futility of war, and the human cost, told from an intensely personal perspective. With the exception of the opening scenes, where we see Jim in the public library reading the newspapers, all the action takes place in the Bloggs' Sussex home.

The animation is interesting; it is a mix of traditional, hand-drawn and coloured stills, with model sets shot using traditional filming. In some scenes, physical objects are shown as interacting with the cartoon characters (for example, when they try to get comfortable under bed sheets), which provide some interesting visuals. Compared to some modern animation, the distinctly un-CGI artwork might look a little crude to younger viewers, but with a story as strong and emotionally powerful, hopefully few will notice.

The soundtrack, provided chiefly by Roger Waters, who created all the music especially for the film, adds drama and pace - driving the urgency of preparations as the attack nears, conjuring up the happiness of days past, and, later, showing the couple's descent to the stage where Hilda begs "no more...". Wonderful, evocative music, fully deserving to be sought out by Floyd and Waters fans.

When The Wind Blows DVDThe first of the extras is a fascinating, modern day interview with Raymond Briggs, the creator of the book. This fourteen minute feature gives the historical and emotional background to the story and characters, and to Brigg's own life.

The other extra is a 25 minute documentary from 1986, called "The Wind And The Bomb: The Making Of WTWB", which was originally broadcast on TV. This focuses more on the actual creation of the film, drawing on the thoughts of the director, producer, Briggs himself, and some of the key artists. There are many interesting scenes showing the animation process.

They also talk about the use of real sets, that the animation is superimposed over in certain scenes, which gives a very different look and feel to the finished piece.

All elements of the DVD are in 4:3 screen format - it has not been cropped to provide a widescreen picture. Channel 4 DVD have fully restored a 35mm print of the film, and have done a good job. Colours are rich and vivid, and the picture and sound quality are excellent. A Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is provided, and this offers clear, deep resonating bass, clear vocal performances, and subtle musical and sound effects. There is a consistently high bit rate thoughout - averaging around 7.5Mbps - resulting in good, detailed pictures, with no sign of compression (or indeed, any digital artifacts).

Presently, this DVD is only provided in PAL format. There is no region coding, making it suitable (equipment permitting!) for worldwide use. As yet, we know of no plans to produce an NTSC version of the film, despite the obvious demand that there would be.

Not an easy watch, then, and not one for the kids necessarily, due to the very strong subject matter, it nevertheless remains a powerful film, complimented by a superb Roger Waters soundtrack, that deserves to be seen.

Orders for the DVD are currently being taken through these links: Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany. Orders for any item placed with Amazon after entering their site through our links, helps with the running costs of this site, and we appreciate it.

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