Although both sides suffer their fair share of casualties, the violence against the invaders is lent an incongruous edge by being delivered with a great degree of cheerfulness. The much celebrated 'Keep Calm and Carry On' mentality is made clearest to modern viewers as two wholesome land girls keep score as they pick off approaching Nazi soldiers with shotguns.
This is, after all, propaganda. Aside from reinforcing enemy stereotypes of the Germans as the worst type of uncivilised brutes ('I have two children myself, though I have never married' – I say!) the most potent element of the film for wartime audiences would have been the breakdown of strictly observed class barriers as villagers of all social standings are forced to pull together against a common enemy.
Intriguingly, it’s the upper echelons of society who come off the worst in their portrayal. They’re either blithely indifferent to the incipient Nazi threat, such as the lady of the manor Mrs Fraser (Marie Lohr) or, in the case of country squire Oliver Wilsford (Leslie Banks) actively conspiring with them. Although Mrs Fraser acquits herself in one of the film's most notorious scenes, sacrificing her life protecting a group of children from a hurled grenade, Wilsford remains loyal to the end. Perhaps the most disturbing element of Went the Day Well is this suggestion that the buttoned-up affectations of the upper classes made for the best front for fifth columnists. It took the international perspective of Brazilian director Alberto Cavalcanti to recognise that so clearly.
Such a strange and disquieting example of British World War Two propaganda demands to be seen. The BFI restoration is crisp and clean, while both formats also feature an enlightening radio documentary by Simon Heffer and a 1941 profile of Mussolini (also by Cavalcanti) which, in its satirical manipulation of film and context, predates the likes of Not the Nine O’clock News by nearly forty years.