Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/New Zealand, 2018. House Productions, Trustees of the Imperial War Museum London, WingNut Films. Produced by Peter Jackson, Clare Olssen. Film Editing by Jabez Olssen.
To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the November 11 armistice, the Imperial War Museum asked director Peter Jackson to create a film that would be a part of the memorial project, their main requirement that he take footage from their library and do something unique with it that had never been done before. What Jackson decided to do with scratchy old monochrome footage taken on the fields of battle in World War I is something that sounds, in description, quite appalling: using digital technology, Jackson and his team of wizards have adjusted the frame rates of the images, colourizing them and adding a soundtrack to give realism and depth to films that have seemed so antiquated for so long. What results is something deeply inspiring, removing the divide of time between the soldiers and the audience and making one feel like they are experiencing the theatre of war happening before their eyes. Jackson arranges his collected elements in chronological order, beginning with enlistment, through training and then the horrors of the battlefield as voices on the soundtrack, most of them veterans who were recorded for archival purposes, describe their experiences. The addition of sound is a beautiful lesson in its value in cinema, adding an emotional dimension to the images that weren’t nearly as tangible without it, while the painstaking efforts to clarify details on so much grainy celluloid, clearing up faces to the best of the filmmakers’ ability, is astonishing.