A rare movie review:
Director Peter Jackson has a new documentary out: “They Shall Not Grow Old”. In total, Jackson and his team restored over 100 hours of 100 year old archival footage from the Imperial War Museum. They narrowed that down into a colorized account of the British soldier on the Western Front. There is no narrator; recordings taken by oral historians from actual British soldiers who served in WWI take us through this journey of theirs. They tell us their own stories, in their own words. The result is a brilliant, visually impressive film, with more humor from the men than one would expect from those surrounded by war. Make no mistake, the film is also jarring, and brutal at times, as was the First World War. One person sitting near me, stood up and left during the artillery scene, and did not return until the shelling stopped.
I saw the film on Monday. There is a 3D version of the film being shown, but unfortunately, I was not able to see that. I originally went to the 3D showing, but this being Fairbanks, the version’s file was corrupted, so I had to come back for the 2D version.
After the end credits, Peter Jackson returns for a 35 minute discussion on how and why he made the documentary the way he did. It’s well worth staying for the behind the scenes look. Jackson is a man obsessed with detail, and that trait does him, and the film, great service. I’m not a fan of colorizing black & white films, but this is a little different. Black & White was used to film footage during WWI, because that is what was available at the time, color was not even an option. Cameras during that time period, were designed to advance the film by hand, so the various footage that Jackson & Company restored, were all at different frames per second, which certainly complicated the restoration. It really is an impressive undertaking, and I was caught up in the intense ride.
This is a documentary that is well worth seeing. In the U.S., “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be shown on the big screens, nation wide, one more time: December 27.