Monday, December 17, 2018

They Shall Not Grow Old

It's fairly obvious that my primary history interests do not stray too far from the United States, 1800-1880 time frame. However, tonight I had the great good fortune to see They Shall Not Grow Old at our local Regal Cinema.

Produced and directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame, this documentary is a fantastic accomplishment. Using BBC oral history interviews from British WWI veterans in the 1970s, and war film footage from the Imperial War Museum, Jackson provides the viewer with a great understanding of the UK's common soldiers.

What really struck me was the common threads of soldier experiences despite different times and different conflicts. In many of the interviews, other than changes in uniforms and weaponry, much of the day-to-day struggles of British WWI soldiers were quite similar to that of Union and Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War. Particularly poignant were the veterans' discussions of transitioning from solder life back to civilians, and how those at home had no idea of what combat entailed and how impossible it was to describe it to them.

After the film and credits are completed, Jackson spends about 30 minutes or so describing the making of the film, from doing the research, to getting the background sound correct, to colorizing the film, to lipreading the silent films, and so much more.

They Shall Not Grow Old is being shown again in selected theaters across the United States on December 27 at 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. If it is shown near you and you have the time, I highly recommend seeing it. It is truly powerful.

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