They Shall Not Grow Old
DOCUMENTARY FILM BBC2 HD, 9.30pm
To mark the centenary of the end of World War One, director Peter Jackson brings to life film of soldiers at the front.
NEW MILITARY HISTORY They Shall Not grow Old
Sunday, BBC2 HD, 9.30pm
EVERY NOVEMBER WE remember the soldiers who fought in the trenches of World War One. But how much do we really know about what life was like on the Western Front?
In a film to mark a century since the end of the conflict, The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has painstakingly restored hours of archive footage, and says he thinks the results will raise a few eyebrows.
‘Nowadays we look at these guys with a lot of pity,’ says Jackson. ‘We thought the war destroyed their lives, but most of them didn’t feel like that. We listened to hours of interviews conducted during the 1960s and 1970s, and many soldiers said they enjoyed life in the trenches and it made men of them. One described it as an extended scout camp with a bit of danger thrown in!’
Making the film, which was shown in selected cinemas across the country last month, also gave the Oscar-winning director an insight into how the average soldier coped emotionally after returning home.
‘We always believed they never talked about life on the Western Front because it was so traumatic,’ Jackson explains. ‘But the reality is that they didn’t talk about it with people who’d never experienced it. Civilians had their own ideas about
what the war was like and weren’t interested in what the soldiers who’d fought in it had to say.’
After going through hundreds of hours of interviews, Jackson’s next task was to restore the black-andwhite footage he’d been given by the Imperial War Museum. His visualeffects company spent four years removing scratches, sharpening up images and adding colour, yet the biggest breakthrough came when they adjusted the speed.
‘All the footage we see of World War One usually has soldiers walking around like Charlie Chaplin,’ he says. ‘But once you slow the film down, they move like we do. They become human beings again and their facial expressions come alive – it was fantastic to see. I was stunned because I’d never done it before, and the results were far better than I’d dared hope.’
Born in New Zealand after his parents emigrated from England following World War Two, Jackson dedicated the film to his British grandfather, who was one of thousands of soldiers who served on the Western Front.
‘He died in 1940, so I never got to meet him, but making this film helped me understand what his life was like in the trenches,’ Jackson says. ‘It brought me closer to him.’
In What Do Artists Do All Day? on Monday, BBC4 HD, 7.30pm,
Peter Jackson talks about his personal connection to World War One.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE TRANSFORMED FOOTAGE
DIRECTOR PETER JACKSON AT WORK