VIDEO: Trailer for ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ by Peter Jackson, who directed all the ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ movies
“It was their lack of self-pity that surprised me,” says Peter Jackson, who listened to more than 600 hours of interviews featuring First World War veterans while making his latest film They Shall Not Grow Old. “We look on these guys with an enormous sort of pity now. We think that we sent these men into this industrial grinding machine. But they certainly didn’t think that was what was happening to them – there was no feeling sorry for themselves.”
Jackson, the Academy Award-winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has spent the last four years immersed in Imperial War Museums’ extensive archives, discovering never-before-seen footage of the First World War. Using modern production techniques, he painstakingly coloured and digitised the black-and-white footage, combining it with first-person audio from the BBC to create a unique insight into the conflict that devastated the world between 1914 and 1918. The resulting film – titled They Shall Not Grow Old after Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen – premieres in London next week.
“You’re not going to learn anything about the First World War from a greater view,” he tells the History Extra podcast. “But you’ll learn how the soldiers felt – and you might be surprised.”
The process of digital colourising is not without its detractors. In 1988 the actor Jimmy Stewart – who was 80 years old at the time – flew to Washington to speak out against the “colourizing” of the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life, in which he had played the starring role. “It’s morally and artistically wrong,” he reportedly said at the time.