'They Shall Not Grow Old’ - Peter Jackson's Stunning WWI Documentary

A beautiful transformation of real archived footage from World War I

Over the course of this year, countless events have been held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War One, from the Tate Britain’s ‘Aftermath’ to the release of the blockbuster film Journey’s End. However, nothing has faced such critical acclaim as ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’, a series of footage and interviews that are beautifully woven together by Peter Jackson. Jackson, whose previous projects include The Hobbit and King Kong, sorted through 600 hours of material from the Imperial War Museum archives during the making of this film. Having chosen the clips he wanted to use, he and his team colourised them, added frames and slowed them down to a more natural speed. The effect is astonishing; when watching the documentary, I felt much more involved than I would have done had I been watching the crackly film that is so characteristic of early twentieth-century cinema. The documentary focuses on nearly every aspect of life in the trenches, from the mundane (a British soldier's fitness routine or the abundance of plum and apple jam on the front line) to the momentous, with footage of the devastating explosions and horrific living conditions making the documentary seem all too real. Perhaps what makes the film so arresting is that the views are purely those of the soldiers themselves; we are not shown clips of historians to guide us through the documentary, but we hear the voices of the veterans recounting their version of the war. The whole effect is very moving and I would really recommend watching it: the combination of modern technology and old footage is very special. 

Connie V