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, Hayley Mills, Alan Barnes, Diane Holgate, Bernard Lee
  • 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 Neighbouring Sounds

    Neighbouring Sounds

    Life in a middle-class Brazilian neighbourhood changes upon the arrival of an independent private security firm hired to guard the surrounding area

  • Film4 In Order Of Disappearance

    In Order Of Disappearance

    Hans Petter Moland sets Stellan SkarsgÄrd's unlikely but effective migrant avenger between two very different drug gangs, with darkly comic results

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Film4 The Moo Man

    The Moo Man On Film4

    Director Andy Heathcote tells the story of a farmer (Stephen Hook) and his cows on an organic dairy farm in the acclaimed Sundance documentary on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2014: The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness

    Michael Leader catches the highly-anticipated behind-the-scenes documentary The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness, which charts an integral year in the life of Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 unveils The Museum Of Important Shit

    A collection of ordinary items with extraordinary significance launched in conjunction the film 20,000 Days on Earth featuring Nick Cave. [caption id="attachment_2754" align="alignnone" width="600"]

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share