Out of the trenches
November 11 is the centenary of Armistice Day, the official end of what was then known as the Great War and later as World War I. This week’s TV schedules are filled with powerful shows, reflecting on a conflict that was so horrifying that many believed it would be the last great conflict. Few of these shows will be as poignant as this documentary from New Zealand director Peter Jackson, who created some of cinema’s most epic battle scenes with his blockbuster trilogies, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Now he has turned his hand to the reality of World War I.
Using his vast private collection of war memorabilia as a reference, Jackson embarked on a project to restore and colourise archive footage from the UK’s Imperial War Museum for They Shall Not Grow Old. His focus is not just on the horrors of battle, but the personal stories of soldiers’ everyday experiences. The director took on the task of bringing the soldiers to life by digitising and colourising black-and-white, grainy original images of life on the Western Front. He changed the timing of the footage from 13 frames a second to 24 and added state-of-the art sound, sometimes courtesy of the New Zealand army. The resulting documentary received a standing ovation at the recent London Film Festival. “It’s not the story of the war,” says the Oscar-winning director. “It’s the story of the human experience of fighting in the war.” Not to be missed.