Perhaps one of the most criminally overlooked voices from World War I, Siegfried Sassoon, was, in his time, enormously popular with the British reading public. His war poems, as Margaret B. McDowell writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, are “harshly realistic laments or satires” that detail the grisly horrors of trench warfare with unsparingly vivid images and commentary. In lieu of the mass medium of television, and with film still emerging from its infancy, poets like Sassoon and Wilfred Owen served an important function not only as artists but as moving, firsthand documentarians of the war’s physical and emotional ravages.
It is unfortunate that poetry no longer serves this public function. These days, video threatens to eclipse even journalistic writing as a primary means of communication, a development made especially troubling by how easily digital video can be faked or manipulated by the same technologies used to produce blockbuster Hollywood spectacles and video games. But a fascinating new use of that technology, Peter Jackson shows us above, will also soon bring the grainy, indistinct film of the past into new life, giving footage of WWI the kind of startling immediacy still conveyed by Sassoon’s poetry.
Jackson is currently at work on what he describes as “not the usual film that you would expect on the First World War,” and as part of that documentary work, he has digitally enhanced footage from the period, “incredible footage of which the faces of the men just jump out at you. It’s the faces, it’s the people that come to life in this film. It’s the human beings that were actually there, that were thrust into this extraordinary situation that defined their lives in many cases.” In addition to restoring old film, Jackson and his team have combed through about 600 hours of audio interviews with WWI veterans, in order to further communicate “the experience of what it was like to fight in this war” from the point of view of the people who fought it.
The project, commissioned by the Imperial War Museums, “will debut at the BFI London Film Festival later this year,” reports The Independent, “later airing on BBC One. A copy of the film will also be given to every secondary school in the country for the 2018 autumn term.” No word yet on where the film can be seen outside the UK, but you can check the site 1418now.org.uk for release details. In the meanwhile, consider picking up some of the work of Siegfried Sassoon, whom critic Peter Levi once described as “one of the few poets of his generation we are really unable to do without.”
Learn more about the war at the free course offerings below.
via Twisted Sifter