THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
By Mary Cox
I was really looking forward to this film because both my grandfathers served in the Army in France during World War I. “They Shall Not Grow Old” is a documentary of British soldiers during World War I. Three-time Academy Award Winner Peter Jackson, the director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was asked to make a movie to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.
As the movie begins, Peter Jackson tells the audience that he was given access to most of the film the British shot during the war. He also had access to stories that soldiers told in the 1960’s. Their stories are told constantly throughout the film and back up the scenes we are shown. Even though this was about British soldiers, Jackson tells us that the experiences of the British were typical of all soldiers regardless of their nationality.
Although the United States only entered the war in January of 1918, the war began in 1914 for the British. British Tommies were forced to live in trenches for months at a time. Jackson would first show the pictures and films in black and white then the color version. “They Shall Not Grow Old” is shown in 3D so it feels like you are in the thick of the war.
This was so hard to watch. Jackson does not spare the audience. You see men and horses killed in battle. Hundreds of dead bodies and parts of bodies lying in the trenches are stepped over by the soldiers while flies and rats consume the dead.
Many of the soldiers were really only boys some as young as 13. They dug out the walls of the trenches to sleep in. Most suffered from “trench foot” a painful foot infection caused by long exposure to cold water or mud and marked by blackening and death of surface tissue. Jackson showed pictures of the feet of soldiers who suffered from this condition because they didn’t have enough socks and boots to keep their feet dry.
As difficult as this film was to watch, there were some moments that were light but those were few and far between.
For those who think war is noble or glamorous, this film will change their viewpoint. War is hell and this documentary puts you right in the middle of it because the cinematography is fantastic.
Unfortunately, to see “They Shall Not Grow Old” you will have to go to St. Louis. The closest theaters to us are AMC Ronnies 20 or AMC Creve Coeur 12
“They Shall Not Grow Old” has been nominated for a BFATA, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards.