Peter Jackson is bringing his imaginative, epic filmmaking style to a new documentary about World War I veterans, They Shall Not Grow Old.
The movie is already making headlines because of Jackson’s decision to tell the soldiers’ stories using footage from that era that’s more than 100 years old, The New York Times reports. It was archived at the Imperial War Museum, and the most common scenes depicted were of British soldiers in training and the trenches.
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According to The Times, not only did the Oscar winner, 57, restore and speed up the film — it was made with hand-cranked cameras, which created images too slow for today’s viewer — but he also colorized it with the help of military historians and gave it a 3D component. Weta Digital, the agency behind the special effects in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series, worked on the project, according to the Toronto Sun.
Most of the doc’s narration comes from hundreds of hours of real interviews that British survivors of the Great War did in the ’60s and ’70s. It also includes actor voice-over thanks to forensic lip readers, who pieced together what soldiers in the original footage were saying, The Times reports.
“The clarity was such that these soldiers on the film came alive,” Jackson told The Times about working with old footage. “Their humanity just jumped out at you. This footage has been around for 100 years, and these men had been buried behind a fog of damage, a mask of grain and jerkiness and sped-up film. Once restored, it’s the human aspect that you gain the most.”
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Even for viewers who aren’t into war history, Jackson assures that it’s still possible to form a personal connection to the story.
“Most people in this world, whether they know it or not, have DNA that is made up of people who fought in this war,” Jackson, who’s a World War I expert in his own right, told the Sun.
“I think a lot of younger people don’t know that their great, great-grandfather or their great, great-uncle was actually a soldier in this war,” he continued. “I hope it inspires them to want to know a little bit more of their family history.”
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Now that he’s got telling true stories under his belt, what’s next for the famed fantasy director? According to the Sun, giving a “digital clean up” to some of his first The Lord of the Rings movies, which were released in the early 2000s. Middle Earth will never look better.
They Shall Not Grow Old is playing Dec. 17 and Dec. 27 at theaters around the country.
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