“They Shall Not Grow Old” review

On the 27th I saw “They Shall Not Grow Old” at the Century theater at Clackamas Town Center. I was the brunette who arrived late without 3D glasses and had to dash out and get a pair out of one of the return bins.

First, let me get this out of the way: the technology used by Peter Jackson worked. Sometimes. Truth be told the clips from the trailers were probably the best of it. Much of it still had awkward in-betweens and dodgy coloring. Also, much was made about the film being shown at the “correct” speed but I saw several instances of the footage being slowed to stretch the time.

I should also say that this film would have been better presented in 2D. In the trailer everything looked crisp and sharp but the 3D conversion made things fuzzy and blurry. I didn’t like it at all.

Not all of the technical problems with this film could be prevented; the lack of footage from early in the war was especially noticeable for me (Jack Harris died in 1915, but most of the footage was from 1916 on) but as I understand cameras were banned in the early years and even stills from before 1916 are rare, let alone moving pictures.

There was also a lack of actual combat footage to contend with. I get Jackson’s reasoning for cutting in artwork from “The War Illustrated” but the overall effect of these low-res images on the big screen was underwhelming to say the least.

But for its limited scope (British ground troops on the Western Front) it was at least accurate. I found nothing surprising (no new discoveries or confirmations) but it represented this particular theatre of war faithfully.

Overall I give it a 7/10, but this score is largely because of the obvious effort put into the production.

For my personal experience (ie things not considered in my criticism of the film per se), it didn’t really bring back anything for a few reasons. First, for practical reasons they couldn’t make the artillery sounds loud enough to feel in your bones or give them that distinctive echo they get around built-up areas. Second, there’s the fact that people don’t act naturally when they know they’re on camera (how many Tommies saying “Smile boys! We’re in the pictures!” can you fit in one film?). This is as true today as it was a century ago.

That said, there was a brief moment that got my pulse going. It was when colorized stills of night shots involving star flares and barbed wire were cut in very briefly. That bit was close to home. But it was little more than a drumbeat.

Overall the film didn’t have the cathartic effect I had hoped for. I found the ending of “Oh! What A Lovely War!” had more impact on me (I am not the only WWI British past life claimant who loves that movie for its poetic honesty). But I can’t be too harsh about “They Shall Not Grow Old” because it at least told the story in a way it hadn’t before and it’s worth listing among the more notable WWI films for its technical effort.

Also, A Present-Life Update

It seems the novel I wrote very loosely based on my experience of recalling past lives in medieval England and WWI has finally gotten some interest from one of the queries. I’m still stuck writing in my confined niche of subgenre fiction though. I’m debating whether to try to get out of my subgenre or just damn the torpedoes and promote it to a wider audience with some explanation about this obscure subgenre I write in. A good book is a good book no matter what the core audience, right?

Still keeping my word not to promote my work using my claims. As far as the publisher I’m speaking to and most of my reader base knows, it’s just a clever work of fiction. I won’t use any claims to the contrary to advance my career. I remain committed to the premise that if I was who I say I was from 1928 to 1982, I can make it on my own talent without making some extraordinary claim about my prior identities.

Following Up

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have been a pamphleteer. The details of that life don’t add up. If anything I’m increasingly sure that the life I think I may have lived in early America may be a phantasm because the level of social mobility I seem to recall looks more like a fantasy when I dig deeper. I can’t find a single instance of someone who began life as a criminal transported to the colonies who became a respected preacher and pamphleteer. It just didn’t happen. That kind of mobility is enshrined in the American myth but the research I’ve done doesn’t bear that out. I’d love to be proved wrong on this though.

Going to do my customary big Christmas dinner on Boxing Day this year, though it’s evolving away from a straight historic reconstruction and more just a mix of things from across lifetimes including this one, as well as a bit of wimsy thrown in for good measure. This time I’ll be cooking not only for myself and my husband, but also my girlfriend and her boyfriend. Yes, as 2018 draws to a close we’ve got a polycule going and things are getting interesting.

Also, I got my ticket to see “They Shall Not Grow Old.” I’ve got to go clear across to the far side of town to see it because the 4PM tickets at my local theater sold out within 12 hours of my discovering that there was a second chance to see the film. All the other shows were at 1PM so I had to snag one of the few remaining 4PM seats available.

Not sure what I’m going to make of it. I’m a bit apprehensive about seeing this film and how I might react. I’m sure crying a little is fine but if I’m there sobbing like a widow I might raise some eyebrows.

Notorious Scribbler

I had a flash just a moment ago. I was dwelling on some religious work I wrote recently and the way my husband had remarked multiple times about how I sound like an 18th Century writer when I get going on my lofty screeds about religion or society.

I had a flash of an 18th Century printer’s shop in vivid detail. I saw flashes of type being set, pages being laid out, and the press screwing down onto the page. I had suspected I was apprentice to a printer in that life but in this particular instance, I had the feeling that those were my words on the page, that I was a pamphleteer.

And considering the other memories I’ve had, of apprenticing as a printer’s devil and of being involved in the sort of fire-and-brimstone Evangelical churches that sprang up in the decades following the First Great Awakening, and of marching on campaign in bitter cold, I think I may have been writing about (what else?) concerns about religion and society.

Thing is, if I was a pamphleteer some of my work may have survived to the present! If I could dig up the biographies of early American pamphleteers, I might find there’s still scholarship to be done. I did it for Count William, I guess I’ll do it for the mystery pamphleteer.