"They Shall Not Grow Old"
I recently saw “They Shall Not Grow Old,” an award-winning 2018 documentary produced and directed by Peter Jackson. The film was assembled with restored and colorized footage from World War I. Much of it was previously unseen and over 100 years old. Jackson told his story by blending this media with appropriate sound effects and voice-overs to evoke the actual experiences of these young soldiers at war. Combined with narration gleaned from hundreds of hours of archival veteran interviews, the film transcends the past century to resurrect the faces, images, and events of the war. If we had only had this movie in my high school world history class.
Seeing the young, boyish faces of these long-passed British soldiers made me wonder. Did they ever in their wildest dreams think that an audience in 2021 would be watching their images on a screen in order to learn and appreciate the sacrifices of this almost forgotten population? Remember, “moving pictures” were a brand-new form of entertainment during their lifetimes. I don’t know about you, but this thought makes my imagination run wild. Will future generations be witness to any of us on film in 100 years? Will we be part of a larger framework that will share a story to a curious audience a century from now?
It’s a week past Memorial Day. We now live in a time in which there is a landslide of never-ending video footage. Traditional movies, television, security cameras, smartphones, and social media all attest to it. This modern era brings us the privilege of recording life on film; allowing us to appreciate and better understand history, culture, conflict, and war through a lens that is sometimes objective, and many times selective.
Check out the movie and spend 90 minutes immersing yourself in understanding what it was like to be a soldier in The Great War. The movie doesn't focus on tactics or politics but rather on the experience of living during that era. We are fortunate to have the technology to be able to go back in time to appreciate those who served then and those who continue to serve and sacrifice today.