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Whistle A Tune As You March Toward Hell #FilmReview #JusJoJan

The documentary begins and ends with their voices, ghostly, from the past.

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All of them, their collective voice is a powerful
echo
of a war with no discernible point, but massive waste and loss of life. But still, they must not be forgotten.

I love Peter Jackson for his bringing to life of Middle-earth and now he shows us what fresh hell war was/is, and not the kind of war in fiction where men and elves and dwarves (with the help of a wizard) defeat the orcs in an epic battle. It’s reality at its worst.

From what I hear, the grainy old footage moves into vivid modern colour and then back into the old shots, but I see none of it.

I don’t see the ugly part of war, bodies blown apart and such, but I do hear the bursting of artillery in battle, the men crying out, shots and screams coming from all around me as the surround sound has me sitting on edge, forward and stiff in my seat.

Archival recordings from the 1960’s and 1970’s, of the First World War veterans, all the way back to actual British army camera shots and film that was taken, live on the western front. Lip readers were even brought in by Jackson to interpret what was being said in those shots. Actual interview voices speaking, with no narrator. I wasn’t sure what to expect, if I could get enough from the film, but these kinds of documentaries are usually accessible, for the most part.

From the boys they were, lying about their ages to sign up and on into their basic and specific training. To heading into misunderstood horrors of war. To the trench life to off duty time. To the lead-up toward the battle itself. Then to the aftermath and home once more, for the lucky ones.

It ends where it began, with the time passing habit of whistling and the innocent sound that portrays, the nonchalant spirit of such a tune.

It’s all ringing
echoes
of history in Jackson’s latest film, which played in theatres in Canada on January 21st, for only one day and two months after the anniversary of the armistice that finally ended World War I – They Shall Not Grow Old is a solemn phrase of fact for millions and a gripping title for Peter’s latest. Check it out when and where you can.

It’s not about why the war happened, but rather what it was like being there. And still, I left asking “why?” anyway.

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