CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • U
  • Drama
  • 1961
  • 98 mins

Whistle Down the Wind

Whistle Down the Wind

Synopsis

Alan Bates and Hayley Mills star in this enduring childhood fable. Three Lancashire children find a criminal hiding out in their barn and come to believe he's Jesus Christ

About

Among the most enduring - and most unusual - post-war British children's dramas, Whistle Down The Wind catches its star Hayley Mills at the peak of her powers.

Adapted by Keith Waterhouse from a story by Mills' mother, Mary Hayley Bell, it's neither a character study nor a coming-of-age tale. Rather it's a sort of parable about the power and limits of religious faith, and the displacement of childhood certainty with doubt.

The story centres on three rural Lancashire kids who find a mysterious stranger (Bates) asleep in their barn. The eldest, Kathy (Mills), asks him who he is. His first words to her - "Jesus Christ!" - are misunderstood and Kathy becomes convinced that the man, a murderer on the run from the police, is the Messiah. Slowly she weaves an entire mythology around him until all he says and does is loaded with religious significance.

Though just four years into her acting career, Mills give a performance that is quiet but effortlessly natural. There's little that's mawkish or manipulative in Bryan Forbes' direction, and the bleak Lancashire landscapes and haunting score contribute to the poignant tone. Alan Bates successfully negotiates a difficult role by underplaying things and the supporting kids, none of whom had acted before, are engaging and unaffected.

However, there's also a vagueness about what's being signified here. In early scenes there's a sprinkling of irony as the children act out their favourite Bible stories and ponder their extraordinary luck. When they eventually discover the man's true identity - and as a result lead the police to his hide-out - Kathy remains unchanged by the experience; her capacity for belief, the conclusion suggests, is endless and unshakeable.

At key moments there's implied criticism of an established church that's evasive, hypocritical and officious, and Forbes very effectively evokes the children's private world. However it's Kathy's little brother (Barnes) who learns the most difficult lesson, in the process providing a clue to the underlying message. "'T'ain't Jesus," is his bitter assessment of the man they thought might save them. "He's just some fella."

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Alan Bates, Bernard Lee, Alan Barnes, Diane Holgate, Hayley Mills
  • Director: Bryan Forbes
  • Writer: Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall
  • Producer: Richard Attenborough
  • Photographer: Arthur Ibbetson
  • Composer: Malcolm Arnold

In a nutshell

Haunting, thought-provoking fable about faith, expertly acted by all, and executed with plenty of poignancy, irony and wit.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Day He Arrives

    Comedy-drama from South Korean director Hong Sang-soo. A film director visits a friend in Seoul, but his trip begins to resemble a romantic version of Groundhog Day

    On Film4: 6 Nov 1:30AM

  • Film4

    In Another Country

    South Korean director Hong Sang-soo's drama stars Isabelle Huppert in three separate stories about French women who travel to a Korean seaside town.

    On Film4: 3 Nov 12:00AM

  • Film4

    The Debt on Film4

    Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington & Jessica Chastain star in John Madden's Nazi-hunting thriller

  • Film4 Evil Dead

    Halloween Weekend on Film4

    Two nights of spooks, shocks and scares to celebrate Halloween Weekend on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share