It comes as no surprise when two more documentaries about the Great War come through the YouTube pipeline and fascinate me.
The films are excellent, and the production is a joint venture between Canadian and French filmmakers (here’s the link for the Canadian series home page), as broadcast and posted at YouTube by Deutsche Welle.
There have been two of these series about World War I, both using colorized archival footage.
Apocalypse World War I
1914-1918 (5 x 52’)
Apocalypse Never-Ending War
1918-1929 (2 x 45’)
I need to catch up on the first series. Meanwhile, here’s the synopsis of the second, via Deutsche Welle.
“Apocalypse: Never-Ending War” tells the story of the years of fragile peace that followed the Fist World War, the collapse of empires, and the fateful rise of totalitarianism. Years that foretell the coming of another disastrous war. For four years, from 1914-1918, the world seemed hellbent on total self-annihilation. The First World War was an apocalyptic war that claimed over 50 million lives, civilian and military. Those who survive come to realize the world of the past century has now disappeared into an abyss of suffering. Millions of soldiers, the shell-shocked, the amputees, the disabled, will spend the rest of their lives trying to make sense of their years in hell. Parents are in despair at the loss of their children, families destroyed, millions of widows and orphans left to survive any way they can. In 1919 at Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and in 1920 at Trianon, the victors forge peace treaties that they claim will restore balance. But those who have pinned their hopes on a transition from war to universal peace are to be deeply disappointed. Hatred, fear, and resentment re-emerge from the depths of societies traumatized by war and the tumultuous transformation that results from the world’s map being re-drawn. The vanquished, facing terrible reparations, look for promises of hope, stability and order, even at the cost of personal freedom. The climate is ripe for the emergence of authoritarian forces, exacerbating ethnic nationalism, and opening doors to the worst of human nature. Extreme ideologies take root in Germany and Italy, and spread from there.
I’ve already mentioned the latest sensation for documentary enthusiasts like me.
Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old: “A visually staggering thought experiment; an immersive deep-dive into what it was like for ordinary British soldiers on the western front.”
The Economist uses precisely the right word: immediacy.
“They Shall Not Grow Old” brings archive footage to stirring life, by Prospero (The Economist)
The film applies modern production techniques to old film to achieve something poppies and pageantry cannot: immediacy
… The attention to detail was painstaking, and almost five years in the making. Mr Jackson trawled through hundreds of hours of video and audio footage, most of it collected by the BBC for their documentary “The Great War” (1964). Once these were stitched together into a storyline, each frame was colourised and digitally restored. Computer programs helped to move the video from the ten to 18 frames per second (fps) at which it was shot to the modern rate of 24 fps, doing away with the “Charlie Chaplin effect” (the jerky, disjointed movement that characterises old film). Forensic lip-readers were hired to work out what soldiers might be saying, and their words were voiced by actors.