As seen on BBC2
Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) directed documentary about the British experience of World War 1.
The big deal is that he’s taken creaky black and white footage and colourised it and dubbed on recreated soundtracks (including dialogue identified by lip readers). The intention is to make the Charlie Chaplin figures of war documentaries come alive and feel less like old people from a very long ago time. The technique works and looks great (if a little 40s Technicolor) with only the very occasional odd looking moment (one man’s black hair looked like an oil slick). It achieves the desired effect and brings the footage to life with an immediacy that it previously lacked. A large portion at the start (circa half an hour) and a small section at the end (circa five minutes) are in black and white with maybe an hour in the middle made up of newly coloured material.
The soundtrack is made up of voiceovers by servicemen reminiscing about their experiences. I assume they were recorded several decades after the events described. These voiceovers dominate and we get very little of the newly dubbed soundtracks, but little is said by the people on screen so this is not an issue.
My only complaint is that there is little sense of time. They train for war, seem to fight their first battles and then suddenly Armistice Day arrives. There is no sense of the passing of years. Also the multitude of men talk about various battles but the voiceovers are edited together in a way that could imply they are talking about the same battle when they are really discussing unconnected events.
It’s a good documentary and the colourising of the footage works wonders to make the war far more immediate than it has been before. It might technically be a gimmick but it’s a good one that serves a very worthwhile purpose. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if it sets a precedent of future documentaries colourising creaky footage and dubbing on recreated soundtracks.