REVIEWS Clear vision of war
Peter Jackson ( The Lord of the Rings trilogy)
THIS passion project for master filmmaker Peter Jackson blends a mesmerising level of cinematic innovation with a disarmingly vivid brand of storytelling that brokers a new understanding of one of history’s darkest conflicts.
The ancient black and white footage we all associate with World War I — scratchy, flickering and sped up due to the camera frame rates of the era — is virtually nowhere to be seen in They Shall Not Grow Old.
Thanks to advances in processing technology, that footage is now of the highest quality: crystal-clear, full of astonishing detail, and free of all staccato, herky-jerky movement.
Somewhat audaciously, Jackson has raised the stakes by hand-colouring the footage and then rendering it into 3D. The risks taken pay off in spectacular and gripping fashion.
The wildly varying rhythms of daily life on the battlefields in France — the fixed routines, the unpredictable brutality and the sheer humanity — are captured powerfully and poignantly, with a level of detail that is highly immersive.
The artful yet austere colourisation and the subtle use of 3D never once feel like gimmicky short-cuts towards gaining your full attention.
Every muddy trench, every sprawling field of barbed wire, every ominously advancing tank, every burst of artillery fire and, most hauntingly, every corpse of a fallen soldier, lands on the screen with unforgettable intensity and impact.
Just as important as what you see in They Shall Not Grow Old is what you hear. The narration of the film has been sourced from oral histories and interviews with soldiers re- corded several decades ago.
These nameless, disembodied voices sync up lyrically with the images on screen, often taking us deep inside the minds of young men for whom every new day during World War I could well have been their last.
In so many ways, it is an in- justice to label a singular experience such as They Shall Not Grow Old as a mere documentary. This is an open portal to a time, a place and an instinct to survive and prevail that should never be forgotten.
It is also a ghost story of sorts, a eulogy to a selfless spirit among men that no longer exists.
These are men who came to understand that a journey through the Great War could only end in one of two ways: a death sentence for those who fell, and a life sentence for those who did not.
IN THE TRENCHES: Peter Jackson takes an incredible look at World War I in the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old.