I’d intended for my next post to be on the Battle of Midway, getting myself ready for the up-and-coming film.
I changed direction when my husband surprised me yesterday with a copy of a film we saw last year- Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old. I hadn’t realized that it had made it onto disc and to the U.S., so today as I research that other article, I want to share this older post on the film’s extrodinary story.
I hope you enjoy it!
I was fascinated by the concept of Peter Jackson’s newest film, but disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see it- unless, of course, I could manage a flight to the U.K. (Not likely. “Hey kids, you like the taste of Ramen noodles, right? Well, guess what we’re eating this month!)
While I’ve enjoyed some of his work, it wasn’t the director’s name that caught my eye.
November 11, 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. In preparation for the event, associates of the Imperial War Museums approached Peter Jackson in 2014 with one hundred hours of original WWI footage that they hoped he could present in a fresh, new way.
He took on the challenge, and the following preview gives a glimpse of the results.
While the previews looked amazing, getting out to see a movie in the States is tricky enough! I just hoped that it would make it onto DVD.
Then, a friend passed the word along. It was coming.
They Shall Not Grow Old would be in driving distance of us- for one night only.
Our brave babysitter, with full knowledge of the fact that one of our offspring had been vomiting the previous night, swept in and took charge. The roads were slippery, the rains were torrential, and we were both tired after a night of clean-up, but my husband and I went anyway.
They Shall Not Grow Old was well worth the effort.
Movie cameras in the early 1900s were cranked by hand, producing a jerky, inconsistent picture. Much of the surviving footage was too light, too dark, or just too time-worn.
The creators of They Shall Not Grow Old cleaned up the film, evening out the timing, improving the lighting, and clarifying the pictures.
They colorized portions of it, painstakingly matching the colors of the scenery to actual locations filmed, and clothing to Jackson’s personal collection of WWI uniforms. (If you’ve got the money and enjoy history, why not collect?)
Jackson used some other parts of his personal collection to create sound for the film. As he had a few WWI artillery pieces sitting around, the crew recorded the sound of their treads.
They also recorded other authentic sound effects to insert over the silent pictures, such as rifles and artillery, boots squelching in mud, and voices with accents matched to the home regions of the men captured on film.
The results are stunning. Faces from a century ago come to life and lock eyes with the audience. Some grin, relaxed while they clown around for the camera. Others freeze, awkward and stiff, likely harkening back to still photos they’d had taken which required a fixed pose.
As far as narration, Jackson’s choice was, in my opinion, perfect. The Imperial War Museum has recordings of interviews with WWI veterans in their archives. Portions of these interviews, compiled into a streamlined narrative, provided the words to go with the images, allowing the men who were there to tell their story in their own words.
The only thing I didn’t like about the film stems from pure greed.
In some sections, Jackson reused pictures and footage. While it was done for dramatic effect (and yes, I think that it was effective) I caught myself wishing for more new footage. As I said: I’m greedy.
The film was rated “R” in the U.S. and I’d agree that it’s best suited for a more mature audience. It includes some partial nudity (ever wonder about WWI latrines? See the film and you won’t anymore…) It also some intense and sad images of wounded and slain troops, and a section on “brothels” (a term I don’t want to explain to the wee ones just yet…or ever, really.)
Also, be warned that you may walk out whistling(I was going to share a link, but a number of them are blocked because they think I’m too young.)
Depending on where you live, chances to view They Shall Not Grow Old may be limited. However, if you have a chance to see this bit of history-made-new, I hope that you are able to take it!
Have any of you seen the film? What did you think of it?
Do you have any other historical film recommendations?
Many thanks for visiting!