Stunning And Heartfelt;
In Death, There Is Life.
Do you ever feel like if you’ve seen one old war documentary you’ve seen them all? Well if so, then this is the film to change your perspective. Peter Jackson has crafted something magical here, able to use state of the art techniques to restore old footage beyond anything we have seen to date, and in doing so has created something that feels must-see for its revolutionary possibilities.
Typically, these films follow an established pattern. There is a narrator to tell us a story, and old footage is cut with interviews from survivors. This one, however, features nothing but footage and sound from the era. What you’re seeing and hearing is one hundred years old, with the voices of those who went through the trenches together recounting the events as they unfold on screen. This approach would have been refreshing enough on its own, but the intense restoration effort adds another dimension that makes it impossible to engage in on a deeper, more human level.
Everything is in full color. The skips and jumps and scratches, typical of film stock this old, are gone. Everything is smoothed out and appears flawless, in stark contrast to the brutal, harsh realities of the first World War. The technology may not be perfect but it is as close to that ideal as possible, filling in the missing gaps and making you believe that something from a century ago was filmed last year. It is truly remarkable to witness.
Most war documentaries feel like watching ghosts, but this film brings the ghosts back to life. The simple notion of color, when we are so entrenched in black and white when dealing with old footage, makes everything less dreamlike and more real. As it should. Jackson’s team isn’t just restoring footage, they are restoring life. And in watching these ghosts, we validate them, their struggles, and a conflict we may have never really understood and may never still. This film sets a very high bar for 2019 documentary features.
Directed by Peter Jackson