Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Whistle Down the Wind

UK movie (1961). Rank/Allied/Beaver. Pr Richard Attenborough. Dir Bryan Forbes. Screenplay Willis Hall, Keith Waterhouse. Based on Whistle Down the Wind: A Modern Fable (1958) by Mary Hayley Bell. Starring Alan Barnes (Charles Bostock), Alan Bates (Blakey), Norman Bird (Eddie), Roy Holder (Jackie), Diane Holgate (Nan Bostock), Bernard Lee (Bostock), Hayley Mills (Kathy Bostock), Elsie Wagstaff (Auntie Dorothy). 99 mins. B/w.

In the north of England three farm children – Kathy, Nan and Charles – come through misunderstandings to believe that Blakey, a murderer hiding in the barn, is in fact the returned Messiah. Anxious to protect him from a second martyrdom, they conceal his existence from the adult world, but news spreads among the local children, who at last throng to see him being removed by officialdom to a likely death. The fantasy that the children have erected around his presence is, however, merely confirmed by this final event.

This astonishingly affecting movie is made so by the performances of the three children; in most movies Holgate's portrayal of the second oldest child would be regarded as exceptional, but she is almost eclipsed by Mills and, most particularly, Barnes, as the youngest. This is one of a grouping of movies that depict the generation of powerful fantasies by young minds, hence giving us a glimpse at the origins of Religion and Mythology; others include The Lord of the Flies (1963), The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) and Celia (1988). [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.