They Shall Not Grow Old

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Pat Holscher
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You still have time to see this if you live in the U.S.. It will run again in the United States on December 27. It's projected on screen through sort of a simulcast system that I've never experienced before, but it works quite well (had to drive 140 miles to Laramie to see it).

If you are student of history, or of film, this is a must see.

New Zealander Peter Jackson, famous for his Lord of the Ring films (which I have not seen) was asked by the British Imperial War Museum to take their original movie footage and do something, in terms of a film, with it. Four years later, this is the spectacular result.

Jackson and his crew took over 100 hours of original IWM film footage, restored it, colorized much of it and then selected six hours of that, and then a little less than two, to produce this movie length tribute to the British fighting man of World War One. Experts in reading lips were hired to determine what soldiers were saying in the film footage where they can be seen speaking and then matched with actors from appropriate regions of the UK to produce film that sounds like original talking film footage. Background noises for the sounds of war were added as well (the artillery shocked me in the film as its one of the very, very few instances of artillery sounding actually correct, both in the firing and in the impact. . . it turns out that new recordings of the New Zealand Army's artillery were taken for that effort).

For the voice over, or narration, as to what is being depicted, Jackson relied up on the BBC's series of interviews of British veterans of World War One that were done in the 1960s and 1970s. These were recently run as a BBC podcast as well, so some individuals may be familiar with this set. Using it for the film produced an excellent first person result.

There's nothing really like this to compare it to. It was a huge effort and that produced a very worthwhile result. Highly recommended.

As an aside, the title comes from Laurence Binyon's 1914 poem, For the Fallen.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


Animadvertistine, ubicumque stes, fumum recta in faciem ferri?
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I was lucky enough to see this recently, and it's one of the most powerful films I've seen.

Now, apparently they missed a cut-off date for something or other, so it's not eligible for an Academy Award for 2018, but because it was released in 2018, it can't be considered for 2019, either. If ever a documentary deserved the recognition, this one does.

After the closing credits, Jackson talks a good bit about the hundreds of hours of film made available to his team. We can only hope that he follows up with more work in this vein. He has access to archival footage for the navies, aviation, the allies, colonial troops, even German troops.
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