Sunday, 1 August 2010

We Died and Never Knew

Went the Day Well, Cavalcanti's first proper feature for Ealing Studios in 1942, is like an episode of Dad's Army directed by Michael Haneke. Scenes of brutal horror erupting in the midst of this quiet rural community, shot in stark high-contrast black and white, anticipate The White Ribbon, even down to the way both are presented very much as a told story. What makes Went the Day Well so shocking is that it seems to start off just like any other Ealing Comedy. The first twenty minutes or so could have been Passport to Pimlico, or The Titfield Thunderbolt. Suddenly minor comic characters are dying as heroes with more of your pain and sympathy than most leading men or women can draw. The film was based on a short story by Graham Greene, and the scene where the priest refuses to follow orders from "from those who are the enemies and oppressors of mankind" and is promptly shot could almost be taken for his signature (even if the BFI claims very little of Greene's story ended up in the film). William Walton's music is also very good - even his little Johann Strauss pastiche used as an early clue to the invaders true identity.