Sensational Look at World War I
They Shall Not Grow Old is Peter Jackson’s smashing film to start off the new year! Never has a documentary film caused such a stir among film buffs around the world. Jackson’s wide-eyed look at World War One gives viewers a reason to weep as well as to rejoice over the sacrifices the young men made in Europe during the early part of the 20th Century.
Jackson has already swept the early awards events at BAFTA and earned many other nominations for Best Documentary, including the London Critics Circle Film Awards nomination as Best Documentary of the Year, and the Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA. It should clean up at many more awards ceremonies before the year is ended.
“This is not a story of the First World War, it is not a historical story, it may not be entirely accurate but it’s the memories of the men who fought---they’re just giving their impressions of what it was like to be a soldier,” said Jackson at the film’s premiere.
The film is an account of the real events during the war, from the viewpoint of the actual soldiers who were in the fight. Jackson and his crew waded through more than 600 hours of interviews from the Imperial War Museum and the BBC in London. Audio interviews of men who had fought in the war that had been recorded in the 1950s while they were still alive were used and cut into pertinent sections of the film. There is no formal “narration” in the film. Only real thoughts and opinions of real soldiers were interspersed into the scenes where appropriate. That gives the film a real, honest look at the conditions and adversities the soldiers endured.
This documentary has an immediate impact on the viewer. These are actual men, some only boys, with real faces, freckles and warm smiles. Some of the boys were only 16 years old, and the average were 17 and 18 at the time they joined the war. You are walloped by the fact that so many of these boys faced their first battle and their instant death. Such a waste!
Jackson and his crew waded through miles of nearly 100-year old film from the archives. Through the magic of very talented technicians, they restored the film to modern day 24 frames per second through the projectors to alleviate the old-time “jerky” silent film look. Using modern day computers, these ingenious and talented people turned the old silent black and white film into 3D (certainly a miracle!) and then colorized it. In an interview, Jackson explained, “The men saw a war in color, they certainly didn’t see it in black and white. I wanted to reach through the fog of time and pull these men into the modern world, so they can regain their humanity once more.”
It is not easy to sit through many scenes of the carnage caused by the explosives and the gas attacks. It makes one very sad to see these young boys slaughtered on the field. It is shaking to realize that the young, happy faces we saw in earlier scenes were now fodder for the guns of the invading forces.
The film ends up as a magnificent achievement for Peter Jackson and his film associates. It reminds us “war is hell” and that we must never endure such atrocities again. Go see this documentary! It’s an astounding look at history close up and in three dimensions, making it all that more realistic.
NOTE: Peter Jackson is known for his Lord of the Rings features. From his first film made in 1987 to 2018, he has been nominated for 43 Oscars® and has won 20 Academy Awards®.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “R” for disturbing war images.)