In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
– In Flanders Field by John McCrae (1915)
From a young age, I’ve been interesting in world war I and II. That world is so far from the life I’m living in, yet so close that I find it impossible to imagine how life was in that time. It’s so strange to imagine that there was a war going on in the country that I live in. They Shall Not Grow Old is directed by Peter Jackson and shows photos and videos of World War I, or the Trench Warfare, in a different way. The grey and white scales are made into colours, turning the cruelty into reality. I’ve never gotten an image of the war that looked so realistic. These soldiers had to stay in these trenches, regardless of the weather and other terrible conditions. Having rats eating from corpses around them, fleas crawling over their scalps, maggots digesting casualties. These are all situations that occured in the trenches and the soldiers had to deal with.
When you have trouble understanding and imagining this part of history, this documentary is a great way to give an understandable insight into this time of the 1900s. The authenticity of the coloured shots make you feel like you’re a part of that time. Make you feel like you are fighting in the trenches as well. The voice-overs explain what they saw and what they felt in their time in the trenches, which brings the screen to life.
I never realised how far away from civilisation the trenches and the soldiers were. How remote the soldiers were from the other world. They were surrounded by war. As well as the terrible conditions in the trenches and the way they dealt with it.
The part that was most endearing to me, comes later in the documentary when we see the relationship between the two fronts. They fight and kill because they have to, not because they want to. German soldiers are taken as prisoners to the camps, only for us to see that the German soldiers are helping with salvaging all the bodies of the dead British soldiers and are looking happy that they don’t have to fight anymore. The British and the Germans sit together and share their meals with each other. They exchange their hats in a funny way and laugh about it. That shows how the people in that time were willing to fight and help in the war, but didn’t realise what they signed up for.
As most of the documentaries and movies I watch about the subject of war, they have an impact on me. This one definitely belongs in that list. To me it is so hard to comprehend how life would have been in World War I. I live in a country where life is so different and good now, that it’s like a parallel universe. I hope to never experience anything close to this.
Watch They Shall Not Grow Old, even if it’s just to realize how good life is these days. How much we should take life for granted and appreciatie the little things. It’s a beautiful creation by Peter Jackson.