Who Has Seen the Wind
(Mais qui a vu le vent)
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 103 min
Allan King Associates Ltd.,
Souris River Films Ltd.
Allan King and Patricia Watson’s quiet, contemplative and sensitive adaptation of W.O. Mitchell’s classic Canadian novel relates the coming-of-age story of Brian O’Connal (Brian Painchaud), a young boy growing up in rural Saskatchewan during the Great Depression.
Brian’s father Gerald (Gordon Pinsent) is the local pharmacist and his best friend is The Young Ben (Douglas Junor), a wild and taciturn boy whose father, The Ben (José Ferrer), is the town drunk. The Young Ben’s thieving and truancy give the community’s reigning doyenne, Mrs. Abercrombie (Charmion King), and the Reverend Powelly (David Gardner) a chance to stir up trouble on the town council. Their hypocrisy is challenged by the school principal, Mr. Digby (Thomas Hauff), and by Brian’s kind teacher, Ruth Thompson (Helen Shaver), who also resists the townspeople’s persecution of a Chinese family. Following the death of his father, Brian begins to face the harsh realities of the world around him and, finally, comes to understand some of the questions about the meaning of life and death that he has been pondering.
Who Has Seen the Wind is almost faultless, capturing both the idealism and the ambiguous tension between innocence and experience, the mysteries of nature and the demands of social life. It is a film of rare quality – certainly an exception during the dark days of the tax-shelter era. The ambience of prairie life in the thirties is effectively conveyed through the settings, gestures and attitudes of the characters. All the performances are noteworthy – especially that of Brian Painchaud as the young protagonist, through whose eyes most of the film is presented – and veteran cinematographer Richard Leiterman gives the film a lush look that further accentuates its dreamy authenticity. Who Has Seen the Wind was well received by critics and won the Golden Reel Award as the highest grossing Canadian film of 1978.