We went to the movies yesterday. What we saw was not an entertaining movie. It wasn’t a RomCom nor was it a fantasy. It wasn’t sugar-coated.
No sugar-coating or Mary Poppinsing with yesterday’s movie!
It wasn’t a story either.
As much as I loved this book and cannot wait to see the movie–what we saw wasn’t a Hollywood version of a story!
What it was—was history and a history that is slowly fading. We saw “They Shall Not Grow Old”
Despite the smiles–and over bad food at that–this documentary was somber and frightening.
This is a somber, sometimes eerie, sometimes absolutely horrific and well-needed documentary about The Great War—World War 1.
Posters like this had men and teens as young as 15 who lied about their birthdates to enlist in the British army.
Directed by New Zealand Oscar Winning Peter Jackson it’s dedicated in part to his grandfather who fought in that war.
Forget another Oscar–this guy needs a friggin’ Pulitzer Prize for “They Shall Not Grow Old”
Like Jackson, my grandfather, Thomas Wynne, also fought in that war. One of my great-uncles also fought and was killed.
My grandfather, Thomas Wynne Sr. from County Roscommon. He fought when he was 19 years old and we are thankful he returned!
My grandfather said little about his time fighting in this war. In fact, as children, all we knew of it was a photograph of his division (sorry I don’t have a photo—my aunt has it), his old WWI helmet and his gas mask.
I have no idea who in our family has his old helmet but we all took turns playing with it.
And we were all too familiar with these alien, monstrous looking gas masks. I don’t know how well they protected because my grandfather lost a lung due to the poisonous gases.
He also lost a lung as a result of the effects from the mustard gas, I believe—it was one of the gases. But the man was strong because he lived to be a very old man. With one lung. Smoking Chesterfields and drinking a boilermaker a day.
My grandfather must have had great genetics to have one lung, smoke non-filtered Chesterfields AND drink a boilermaker a day.
Other childhood memories of his days in the Great War were listening and singing songs like It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” “K-K-K-Katie” and “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” which we dubbed “Yinky Dinky Parlay Voo”
For some strange reason, I thought everyone on earth knew this song. I grew up singing this thanks to my grandfather!
It wasn’t until I was older that he mentioned life in the trenches was the worst experience he ever had. He said it was the only time, as an adult (actually late teens) that he shit his pants in fear. This was in The Somme at the Battle of the Verdun.
My grandfather never spoke of life in the trenches. My guess is he didn’t want to be reminded. But Peter Jackson gave me a better understanding of what my grandfather and others went through. It was horrible.
He was lucky. He survived. And though one of his major organs was removed. He remained ours. And he was one of my favorite people.
But back to the film. Jackson focused on the British troops during this war as he was commissioned by the BBC and his grandfather was one of the troops.
Four years into the making, the footage was restored in color—a painstaking process. But the film goes from black and white into the color making the effects of this war even more realistic and horrifying.
From black and white to color–and it gave a more harrowing, realistic aura of this awful war.
Voice-overs from men who fought this war and survived were taken and used for describing the War.
Faces of young soldiers and listening to the voice overs of those who fought were beyond moving. It was downright sad.
Some of the scenes were so god-awful, I had to look at the movie out of my bad eye and in one moment of the film, one of the men used in the voice-overs states that ……he passed a boy (soldier) with an arm and leg blown off—his eye hanging down to his cheek calling for his mother. He shot the boy to put him out of his misery—and his voice shook—years later. Can you possibly imagine?
This is a very subdued photograph of the casualties of day one in the Somme. The movie showed more graphic visuals that I just can’t even post.
There is no romanticism in this movie. It is what it is. It showcases the horrors, and also the “off-time” from the trenches. Men and teenaged boys being what they are—boys.
There is nothing romantic about war in this documentary. It is what it is.
This is one of the saddest photos. Jackson, in the commentary mentioned that the men in this photo–it was possibly their last 30 minutes alive because they were sent into a battle in which all the men died. Look at the fear in the soldier’s face.
God knows how they were able to shot a gun with these masks on….
The part of the movie that did me in, though, was the ending credits. The song, Mademoiselle from Armentieres was being sung over the credits. And at that moment, it all came back to me. My grandfather singing that song to me. And I remembered the lyrics and sang along.
It was a very touching part of the movie and I wanted my grandfather back so I could really talk to him about his life in the trenches and understand more of what he went through.
After the movie ended, a 30-minute commentary with Peter Jackson was shown. If you see this movie, you have to stay for the commentary because it makes the film more precious. He mentioned all the countries and colonies who fought in the war.
The colonies were among those mentioned in the commentary…
…as well as the Americans
He also mentioned that we could be the last generation who had a relative who fought in that war and asked to talk about it. Chances are that more people had a relative who fought.
You know it isn’t a proper blog post of mine if I don’t mention clothing. The Scots had THE best military uniforms. Kilts. And they managed to fight a good battle in them..
Now you know one of the reasons I love my kilt skirts so much!
And he was so correct. Personally, I naïvely thought everyone had a grandfather or great uncle fighting in WW1. It was also my thinking that everyone was well-educated about The Great War. It saddened me to find out that its history is fading.
War is stupid. War is dumb. War is humanity at it’s worst. People think I’m an oversensitive liberal. I’m not. And I’ve had some people tell me I’m a lousy American because of my views on war.
An African-American infantry on their way to The Verdun. We forget about our men of color who fought in this war. They should be a big part of Black History Month!
But here’s the thing. Every time I’m in France. I visit an American War Cemetery. Vincent and I drove up by the Somme some years back to look for my great-uncle’s grave and we think we may have found it but weren’t sure. In any case, I make sure to pay my respects for all the men who fought in France during WW 1 and WW2.
This is the American Cemetary in The Somme. We may have found my uncle’s grave but we weren’t sure. Either way, I went down on my knees and paid respect to these men who fought for the world.
It doesn’t get more patriotic than that. So, to those who think I’m a lousy American. I challenge you to do the same and I say don’t judge me. Not now. Not ever. Never.
Two years ago I was here. It never gets old for me and I will continue to pay my respects for those who fought in The Great War and WWII.
My thanks to Mr. Jackson for bringing back a piece of history that is fading.
Here’s the song that broke me. From the ending credits of They Shall Not Grow Old. (I grew up thinking it was “Yinky” when it’s actually “Hinky”–oh what we learn when we grow old!). The commentary gives a nice background story to the men singing this song. And it’s an uplifting ending to the credits!