Over this past weekend I went to see the film, “They Will Not Grow Old” produced by the British Centenary Project and a film produced by the same gentleman who gave us “The Lord of the Rings” series, Peter Jackson.
As I sat, transfixed upon a movie screen of 100 year old scratched and oxidated film, an amazing transformation took place with the magic of a group in New Zealand, cleaning, refocusing, slowing down the 16 frame per second film to a very paced and realistic 24 frames per second film feed. In many places where the film had jumped and missed a second or two in the scene, the computer imaging equipment and the know how to fill in those scenes produced a flawless image of movement of men and women from 1914-1919.
I knew immediately upon seeing the opening that here; was an untold story. One that existed in color and with sound, quite unlike the images you and I grew up watching. Throughout the entire film, Jackson, had hired professional oral historians, that could lip read what the soldiers and the officers were saying and painstakingly inserted actors voices from the same areas of England as the soldiers in the film, perfectly capturing tone, and accent to bring the viewer into the scene.
Jackson also had borrowed interview voice tracks from a 1971-72 program by the BBC in which veterans of the First World War spoke about their experiences. Combining the voices of men and women who were actually IN the war, gave the film the most incredible “first hand” look. They were careful to match the colors of the German and British uniforms exactly as they had been, by comparing actual uniforms from the era along with patches and infantry tank and equipment colors.
So…big deal right? Another realistic rescued film…been there…done that, have the ticket stub!But what I haven’t said about the film that was most amazing, was not the technical aspects of it’s production, but the character of the men that came across the screen, and their comments. These were not straw men and women. Collected from across the British countryside, were steel workers, butchers, bakers….men and women from a life that was already hard and gritty. These were people who had no vainglorious automobiles, no social connections to brag about. They were men who were not Hollywood good looking, much to the contrary. They were plain…hard working and fiercely proud Brits…whose nation meant more to them than we can imagine today in the soft, comfortable salons of Washington, Los Angeles or Boston.
They were people who knew they were leaving their hardscrabble lives on farms and steel mills and congested cities with soot filled air, for a battlefield where primitive fighting in the mud; amidst dead and rotting corpses, was commonplace. Where a single second separated a best friend from his companions, dropping him face down, dead in the muddy soil of France, while his comrades, unable to avoid their dead bodies, would run over them in order to get into the cover of a shell hole. They knew that fighting the “Great War to end all Wars” was up to them…not a bureaucracy. The thin line that separated living victory and death, was arbitrary…and cold and eternal. And yet, they fought…and laughed, and buried their companions in the thick wet soil of the French and Belgian countrysides.
Such were the men of the Great War, as were the men and women of The Second World War, and Korea and Vietnam. Their fighting was not done with technical superiority…rather, with the blunt force of single shot carbines and newly created machine guns. They could not count on “owning the skies” because there was no REAL air force or top gun tactics… no bombing raids from overhead stealth aircraft no drones…only the infantry…sometimes firing short and hitting their own soldiers.
And I walked away with the knowing that it was not guns or tanks or infantry that won the Great War…it was the character of men and women who; due to overcoming hardship everyday of their lives, dug deep once more from a wealth of guts and determination to win for King and Country. They had no soft lives as does this generation…pampered with their air conditioning and manufactured social networks where cosmetically perfect smiles blind us with their boast of perfection.
It is the trials of life, fairly met and successfully overcome that win wars. It is the acceptance of unfair and uncomfortable circumstances, where we must bite our tongues instead of whine for instant justice that survives the storm of war. It is not insisting that convenience prevail in life, rather, it is the acceptance, the “welcoming” of the daily chores of self denial and self sacrificing for the good, the “common good” of all that makes the battle hardened soldier. It is this that makes us stand with hand over heart and tear in eye proud. It is because we know…deep inside, that they ran into fire in order to give us something better.
s I have never said this before, but as a former vintner… the blood of the men and women covering the ground in every conflict a nation experiences is the most expensive vintage of wine every poured save for the blood of Christ. I sat in my seat as the credits rolled and cried my eyes out. I wept because when a nation forgets the sacrifice of those who have given all so that they might live free, it is a nation soon lost…and soon forgotten…and soon enslaved. To embrace hardship is perhaps the most overlooked theme of the Christian’s life. If we seek to escape it, God will only bring us back to it. We must become those people who God can lead through the fire and out of prison, instead of those who; through self centered love of luxury, seek to escape it. I for one, need to become not softer and gentler…but purer and purer as God heats up the furnace. How about you?