They Shall Not Grow Old

If you like to get a real insight into WW1 in a way you have never seen before then you will probably like this.

  • Directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings)
  • Starring the soldiers on the front line in WW1
  • Budget of $n/a

Initial Thoughts 💭

To mark the 100th anniversary of WW1 ending, Peter Jackson produced and directed this remarkable documentary to commemorate what those young men in the trenches actually endured. A breathtaking view of what life was like for the soldiers.

The ‘ccc’ review💭

They Shall Not Grow Old presents WW1 as we have never seen it before. Using cutting edge technology and colourisation, it shows the archive footage through a totally different lens. Told by the soldiers themselves, the film explores the harsh realities of war; how they joined, how they trained, how they ate and slept, formed friendships and the utter horror they saw on the front line. This film represents a generation that witness both the worse and the best humanity had to offer.

Film colourisation is any process which adds colour to black-and-white moving picture images using special effects and techniques to convert them into colour images (in this instance stunning images). To carry out this process with respect and high quality, there was no better person to do it than special effects innovator Peter Jackson who has developed so many film- changing techniques . Just think of the impact that Lord of the Rings has had with subsequent films, namely the performance capture technology made famous by Andy Serkis’ numerous performances. Jackson and his team have used it to great effect in They Shall Not Grow Old.

Taken predominantly from footage and audio from the Imperial War Museum, Jackson has managed to interweave a story. This is all the more impressive as the original footage came from a time, the 1910s, where the ability to synchronize the sound and pictures had yet to be established. Despite the fact the archive footage and media came from various people and different regiments, the consistent narrative personalizes the documentary as well as conveying the message that all the men saw the same horrors.

The first part of the film is in black and white and uses various wartime posters to speak about how the men were recruited. The moment colour is introduced is literally jaw dropping and will have you taken aback. There is something about adding colour to black and white footage, it just makes it feel much more real. We would say adding colour in this film is akin to putting a name to a face – it made it far more personal.

It may be silly to say, but there is not much difference between the faces of the men you see on screen compared to what we see now – the only difference is that this is from footage from over 100 years ago! The soldiers looked just like people you see walking down the street, having a pint at the pub and in a number of instances young men you would see going to school or college…..over 250,000 British soldiers were underage (had to be 19 or above to fight overseas), with the youngest known soldier to have fought and died to be 12 years old.

Normally in our reviews we would give notable mentions to the stars of the film. But there are no stars in They Shall Not Grow Old, just fallen heroes and inspiring survivors. The audio used of surviving soldiers is as key as the images. The humility in their voices is staggering, no hate or anger but classic British humour and wit, as though what they did was nothing. A memorable quote being “it was a sort of outdoors camping with the boys with a slight hint of danger” sums up how those soldiers narrated felt.

Final Thoughts 💭

This was an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. The colourisation and additional sound editing really brought the archive footage to life, and hearing from the soldiers on the front line was educational and eye-opening. The frightening thing is that what was told is only a fraction of what actually happened given the magnitude of the war. A documentary that reveals the harsh realities of life on the front life but given heart as told from the soldiers themselves.

A must see documentary.

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