“They Shall Not Grow Old,” a different take on documentary filmmaking

Bryce Wetzler, Guest Reporter

“They Shall Not Grow Old” is a documentary directed by Peter Jackson about the World War I from the British perspective. The film is presented using restored footage and different audio techniques.

As one who has always been fascinated by WWI and have even visited the National World War I museum, I highly anticipated this film. Not only was it directed by  Peter Jackson of “Lord of The Rings” fame, but they utilised a large and talented team equipped with cutting edge restoration technology.The bar was high, yet the film broke it in half and went beyond expectations.

The film uses recoloring techniques, newly developed restoration processes, and reimagined audio to bring to life the experiences of those who fought in one of the bloodiest bouts of violence known to mankind. In some cases I forgot I was watching actual footage rather than a modern day blockbuster action movie.

Though this is a documentary about war, there’s bound to be shows of real world violence. Near the middle of the film when frontline combat became a primary focus, there were numerous cuts to footage of dead corpses in color–including blood, limbs, and in some cases blown apart bodies. These heartbreaking scenes not only made me turn my head, but caused my stomach to turn.

The way Peter Jackson and his team brought these 100-year-old film reels to life was astounding. The voice actors seemed to breathe life into those on screen–I had seen the footage before, but never with audio, color, and such a smooth framerate.

At the very end of “They Shall Not Grow Old”, the production of the documentary is shown, utilising humor to lighten the serious mood. Not only did they bring out a hearty laugh from my emotional heart, but one from the rest of the packed theater as well.

This film was an overall amazing experience for me. I highly recommend it to anyone who had family who served in the war or anyone who is interested in history. I am excited to watch it again on Dec. 27, to relive the memories of those who served 100 years ago once again. Tickets are on sale for the special Dec. 27 screening here.