A look at Peter Jackson’s visually stunning They Shall Not Grow Old, his documentary about The Great War.
You’ve probably seen those silent, black-and-white clips of soldiers moving weirdly fast, looking tired, and handling heavy machinery in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly a huge tank appears with the narrator’s monotone voice narrating event 1, event 2, and event 3 of the war. But, have you ever wondered what it was like to actually be there?
This past November was the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, or the Great War, as it is also known. To commemorate it, Peter Jackson is releasing They Shall Not Grow Old, his first documentary, made with WWI footage provided by the Imperial War Museum.
Jackson used modern techniques to restore 100 hours of footage to make the audience feel the way soldiers felt and provide insight into the human experience of battle. It’s not only about coloring the images, but also providing voice acting, recreating the sounds of the machinery, and bring to life those thrilling battles.
At the same time, the documentary features the voices of men who served in the “War to end All Wars,” narrating their experiences. These men are not individually identified, which makes their storytelling all the more ghostly. In this way, Peter Jackson’s first documentary is a chance to feel what the soldiers saw, heard, and felt, and also to show who they were.
One of the changes you’re least likely to notice is the alteration of the footage speed. Remember how cameras used to have a handle cameramen had to wind in order to get a shot? Well, as Peter Jackson explains, back in 1915, 16 and 17, the speed of the film was dictated by how fast he would wind the handle. The same cameraman could be filming something at a certain speed and then shift the camera, get excited about something and totally change speed from one shot to another… So, every shot had to be individually analyzed by Jackson and his team. All of this was extremely challenging but was of utmost importance in order to bring the footage up to date or, rather, back to life.
Check out these trailers and follow Peter Jackson on a trip 100 years back in time. The film will be released on December 17, 2018.
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