If you are a fan of WWI history or the technical aspects of fine movie making, or both, this film is for you. Breathtaking is the word that I leave you with. Enjoy.
Mekado Murphy writes of the film in The New York Times:
The director of elaborate fantasy epics like the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies, Peter Jackson has become known for meticulous attention to detail. Now he has put the same amount of care into making a documentary.
With “They Shall Not Grow Old,” Jackson has applied new technology to century-old World War I footage to create a vivid, you-are-there feeling that puts real faces front and center and allows us to hear their stories in their own words.
The filmmakers culled their commentary from hundreds of hours of BBC interviews recorded in the 1960s and ’70s.
The result is a transformation that is nothing less than visually astonishing.
For Jackson’s documentary, rather than sift through the archival footage to decide which scenes to use, he opted to restore all 100 hours first (working on that daunting three-year task with a New Zealand company, Park Road Post Production). Decades of scratches, dust and splotches were cleaned up, and the now-pristine material was donated back to the war museum.
There were other technological adjustments as well. Jackson’s goal was to reconnect audiences with the soldiers in a way even more intimate than “The Battle of the Somme” did. The footage had a herky-jerky feel because it had been shot on hand-cranked cameras that produced images at a much slower frame rate than modern audiences are used to. Jackson’s team retimed the footage, speeding up the frame rate, adding extra frames digitally and smoothing out the movement.
Stereo D also worked on converting the film to 3-D for a more immersive effect, a sense of being on the battlefield. And Park Road enhanced the experience with sound editing to rival that of “The Lord of the Rings.” But explosions, gunshots and tank engines aren’t as surprising as the moments when the soldiers speak.
“We got some forensic lip readers, who, before this, I had no idea actually existed,” Jackson said. These experts, who often work with law enforcement to help determine the words of people in security camera video, reviewed the archival footage to reconstruct, as nearly as possible, what the soldiers were saying.
Voice performers were hired to stand in for the soldiers, but Jackson’s team, mindful that regiments were drawn from different regions of Britain, made sure the actors came from those areas and had accurate accents. In a similar vein, military historians provided ideas for what off-camera officers’ commands might have been, and that information made its way into the film as well.
Even with all of these moving parts, and with footage that could have told a dozen different war stories, Jackson tried to keep his film specific.
“I didn’t want to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I just wanted to focus on one topic and do it properly: the experience of an average soldier infantryman on the Western Front.”
Read more here.