Throughout the documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, I experienced a variety of profound emotions, ranging from sadness to confusion to hopelessness. I am cognizant that I cannot begin to fully understand or relate to the lives of the soldiers in World War 1, as I have never had to experience such a destructive event. That being said, the gruesome imagery and depictions of death so easily discussed provided a window into the unfiltered lives of the soldiers, allowing me to see the harsh reality of war. When hearing of the age of the soldiers enlisting, the stories’ poignancy was only enhanced. I have lived a fairly sheltered life, all things considered, so it seems unfathomable to imagine friends and family members of similar age in the same situation. Knowing that the soldiers had family and friends who loved them equally as much as I love mine is terrifying. No one speaks of the individual losses, always referring to the deaths on a grand scale, so hearing about their identities, aspirations, families, and lives made the authenticity and individuality of their characters all the more real.
How the film used colorization and sound restoration to give life to the war bridged the gap between past and present, humanizing the soldiers and giving them personality in a way that made it even more difficult to watch. It is one thing to hear of the horrors of war through statistics and history books, however, the realism that this film provided and having to watch the horrors unfold for myself was a stark reminder that they were just ordinary people thrust into a devastating situation. The most crushing realization was the juxtaposition between the innocent, and even excited young men, enlisting, to the harsh reality of the brutal warfare and conditions on the front lines. It was heartbreaking to think that most of these boys, who were once full of enthusiasm, never made it back home. This reality puts into perspective just how much they sacrificed for their countries, and provided a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for those who gave their lives for the cause.