RE­VIEWS Clear vision of war

Sunday Tasmanian - - News -

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.

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