Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson has transformed First World War footage from Imperial War Museums’ extensive archive using modern production techniques for his film They Shall Not Grow Old.

Combining the footage with interviews conducted by IWM and the BBC, the film tells the story of what it was like to be a soldier during the war – from what they ate and wore to what it was like to participate in battles and tend to the wounded.

'It really felt like the natural thing to do…let them tell their story'

Footage has been colourised, converted to 3D and transformed using modern production techniques.

For Jackson, who has had a long-standing interest in the First World War, the experience of making They Shall Not Grow Old has prompted a new connection to the film footage that was recorded during the conflict. 

‘I can connect with the First World War footage better than I ever have in my life, and I’ve been looking at this, I’ve been looking at documentaries and First World War film as long as I can recall, you know, for 50 years. And I’ve never seen anything that’s affected me as much as what I’ve seen in the last year,’ he said.

Ultimately at the beginning we were feeling our way through, what's this going to be, and by the time we were finished it really felt like the natural thing to do. You let them till their story, and they're not telling the story of, you know, why the song happened or why Passchendaele, you know, it was such a disaster, they're not telling that story, they're just saying they're just telling us what it was like to be a soldier in the First World War, in all different topics all different ways. And with that being the soundtrack, just purely the voices, it then became apparent that we should try to present the images with as close as we could to what they experienced, and they didn't see the war in black and white for
instance, you know, they saw the war in colour. But we didn't want to do reconstructions, we could easily dress up a lot of guys and uniforms and film some stuff today but we didn't want to do that, we wanted to use strictly archive footage.
 

'The faces of the men come alive'

Peter Jackson: "The one thing that this restoration does is it is it literally makes these faces, the faces of the men come alive. I mean, you know, it all looks sharp, it looks clear, looks and the speed of it looks, looks like a normal speed just being sped up. It does all that sort of stuff but somehow the net result on that is turning, is making these people into human beings."

[Music]

Voice over: "You knew what was going on within your vision, beyond that you hadn't got a clue." 

"You didn't care how the war was going when you were winning, you wouldn't bother with that at all."

"You live like tramps. You didn't polish any buttons, you wore any uniform bits that you like..."

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