It’s difficult to imagine to horrors and hardships soldiers on the front line faced in World War I, but a new documentary is giving audiences their closest look yet at the realities of life in the trenches during the Great War.
Peter Jackson’s new documentary They Shall Not Grow Old has been hailed a masterpiece for bringing to life the stories of WWI veterans in spectacular colour and detail.
The movie uses real footage recorded during the war, but rather than showing it in its original black and white, Jackson, who is most famous for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has rendered it into marvellous colour so that audiences can see the soldiers world the same way they did.
The result is remarkable. Rather than seeming fake or contrived, the colour effect makes the reality of the situation seem all the more real and relatable and only serves to heighten the highs and lows of brotherhood in war.
The film is narrated by 120 WW1 veterans, who were interviewed by the BBC in the early ’60s for a documentary series to mark 50 years since the war. Jackson has overlaid their voices throughout the film, so it feels as if they’re reliving their story on screen.
The film was announced in January and at the time, Jackson said he was excited at the chance to share the soldiers’ incredible stories of courage and heartbreak with the world.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the First World War due to my own family history and the Centenary felt like a unique opportunity to make a personal contribution to the commemoration,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to bring new life to the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”
While the film is likely to appeal to those of who had fathers and grandfathers fight in the war, it will also serve an important educational purpose to the younger generations, too.
A copy of the film will be given to every secondary school in the UK in the autumn term along with curriculum-linked learning materials for students.
Jackson recently told Nine News he was stunned at the humanity of the men on camera and that it was more a film about their lives and their stories, rather than a war movie.
“I’m most proud of the fact I’ve made a movie which lets the people that were there fighting this war tell their own story,” he said. “They’re telling us what it was like, and it’s not what we think it was like.”
They Shall Not Grow Old premieres at the London Film Festival on October 16. International release dates will be announced in the coming weeks.