Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning film director who is best known for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has used footage from the archives of the Imperial War Museum to make a new film about World War I.
The footage is over a hundred years old. Jackson and his team used the latest technology to remaster film taken at the Somme in order to show it to a modern generation that is more aware of Jackson’s fantasy realms than they are of British military history.
The final film will be shown in theatres, broadcast on BBC One on Armistice day and copies will be sent to every secondary school in Britain.
Jackson called the remastered and hand-colored footage “stunning.” He said that this footage no longer looks like a Charlie Chaplin movie – sped up, grainy, jumpy and scratchy. He said that “noise” in the footage disconnects modern viewers from what is happening on the screen.
The remastered footage looks like it was shot within the last couple weeks with high definition cameras, according to Jackson.
The film will also include interviews with WWI veterans, some of which were recorded fifty years ago for the 1964 BBC series The Great War.
Jackson sifted through 600 hours of audio for the film. He said his intent was not to focus on particular battles or historical aspects of the war. Instead, he allowed the soldiers to tell their experiences.
Jackson said that he had never heard some of these interviews before and it surprised him. He realized that our understanding of WWI is based on a cliched version of it. He called it surprising to hear from these men telling about what it was like to eat, sleep and live in this environment of fear. The new film will give viewers an idea of what it was like to fight in this war over one hundred years ago directly from the men who lived it.
Diane Lees is the director-general of the Imperial War Museum. She hopes that Jackson’s celebrity status will attract younger viewers who aren’t currently interested in learning about WWI.
Lees says that colorizing the film is important because modern audiences will often discount footage that is in black and white.
This project winds up the five-year arts program called 14-18 NOW which commemorated WWI. Other projects in the program included We’re Here Because We’re Here in 2016 where 1,000 volunteers dressed in military uniforms to represent the soldiers that died at the Somme on the one-hundredth anniversary of that battle.
Jackson’s film will be in 2D and 3D. Trafalgar Releasing is an event specialist which will coordinate the nation-wide release of the film. Jackon’s WingNut Films company is producing it. The film was funded by the British lottery, the department of culture and the Arts Council. The project was unveiled at BAFTA in London. It will debut at the BFI London Film Festival in the fall.
The Imperial War Museum approached Jackson a couple of years ago to find out ways they could present the footage in their archives in a manner that had not been tried before.
BBC content chief Charlotte Moore said that the film will bring the experiences of these soldiers to life for a new generation.