They Shall Not Grow Old – History Coming Alive

Hey everyone, I hope you’re having a great Christmas Eve. I’m doing something a little different today. The change is mostly due to this holiday season. As Ellen said in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “I don’t know what to say except that it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”

Anyway, if you’re a normal reader of my blog, you know that I love history. If I were still in school, history, without a doubt, would be my favorite subject. Studying and charting the course of our history as a species is infinitely fascinating to me. History is as dynamic as any Oscar-winning screenplay.


One of my favorite periods in history is the 20th century. Two world wars, an atomic bomb, the automobile, computers, and my birth all helped to redefine and reshape the course of our future in this chaotic and ever-shifting 21st century.


Last week, Laci and I found the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old playing at one of our local theaters. In it, The Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson tackles World War I from the eyes of those who fought in it. The inspiration for this project was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Jackson was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London to provide a fresh look at the war.


Using the museum’s archival footage, as well as first-hand interviews from veterans, Jackson spent four years digitizing and colorizing more than 100 hours of film to bring the war to life. Additionally, he brought the film up to 24 frames per second, which is the industry standard. The only voices we hear are those of veterans that the museum interviewed throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He had to sift through more than 600 hours of audio.


The result of this hard work, though, is beautiful yet terrifying. Jackson approached this project with a no holds barred attitude, showing in grisly detail the horrors of war. This is not a film for weak constitutions. The colorization is perfectly accurate and terrific.


But perhaps the most amazing part of this documentary is the amazing narrative that Jackson weaves together. I’ve never seen anything so tragic in my life. I laughed at times, and I wanted to weep at others. The men in this particular Hell experienced such ferocious fighting that many who came back were not the same men that left England years before.


This film, oddly enough, was released on December 17 with very little fanfare. In fact, December 17 was the first of only two theatrical releases this year. The other is December 27. If you’d like to see this movie, head over to this website, type in your zip code, and see if there’s a showing near you. I highly recommend this one. The trailer is below.


Have a Merry Christmas everyone! I’ll be back with The Bridge on the River Kwai in January.


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