On Thursday night, I sat, expectantly, awaiting the first episode of BBC 3’s new Docurama “Our World War”, and I was not disappointed. I was not disappointed because I was expecting a docurama, a dramatisation based on real events, and that’s what I got.
Perhaps, I am best qualified to talk about the show, not for what I know because I know VERY little about the First World War but I am qualified because of my age. BBC 3’s target demographic is young people aged 16-34, and being in that age range, I feel comfortable to explain my opinions.
I thought the production of the film very good and the use of special effects, like in the opening scenes of the episode when the bullet was shown moving into the chamber of the rifle, because, if nothing else, it grabbed my attention straight away and made things seem very (or as much as possible) real. The use of digital over-view, plan style maps really worked, I feel. I don’t feel it was inappropriate. If the alternative is a plain overhead shot or a map then I think the right path was chosen. If the reason young people aren’t engaged is because the material out there is not engaging enough, then why not use new and exciting techniques, that helped give some sort of context to the film which was mostly set at Nimy bridge or within a very small vicinity of it.
The music got a bit of a bashing even for the advert. Many people said the music was not appropriate because it was modern and the film is set in 1914. I agree, the music is modern and the film is set in 1914 but I don’t see that there should be any correlation between the two. Music is used for effect and for a certain purpose I don’t think that music should be chosen purely on the era that it dates from. In my opinion, the modern feel to the music provided tension and made the story feel real and in the here and now, a sure way of engaging people. I’m not sure period music would have had the same impact. In fact, at some points, I found myself snapping a wooden skewer into tiny pieces, without meaning to do so, while watching some scenes.
I didn’t notice the mistakes with uniform and the like, perhaps because I was “off duty” but there was a couple of things that did catch my eye (or ear). Firstly, there was the Royal Engineers Private who referred several times to his Corporal (or Lance, I can’t recall) as “Sir” which I don’t think he would have liked too much. It did stop further in so perhaps somebody realised. Secondly was the Machine Gun. I spoke over this with my Dad who said he agreed with the statement about the Royal Engineer but thought that I was being too picky with this. My issue was that the gun, we are told, had been firing for 8 hours continuously and I’m pretty sure that it would be a little more than lukewarm. On several occasions, men grabbed hold of the gun to replace the ammunition and then Private Godley grabbed the gun, by the barrel, to chuck it into the river. I know some might say that in the heat of action or fearing death, you could handle it but there wasn’t even a flinch when men were grabbing it after 8 hours of constant use. There are tales of men’s hands blistering from touching the gun and continuous use. Picky or not, I just think that this is one of those times where the truth that is left out is more interesting than what is in its place. You decide.
I thought the performances were done very well. I particularly liked Godley for his portrayal seemed so natural and gritty. I let out a small smile when I saw his teeth, crooked and yellow, and heard him turn the air blue with his language. It just seemed to portray the men as – well – men! They were professional soldiers and normal young men, not Hollywood actors with straight white teeth, and I think the actors portrayed this very well, in my opinion. There were no Edwardian stereotypes which pleased me.
Overall, I think the film was very good. It was engaging, fresh and, well, entertaining which, whether we like it or not, is the main aim of the Channel’s commissioners. I just think that everyone needs to take a step back and look at it for what it is. It is helping ensure people know that there was a war before 1916 and I know many people who are in the target age ranged and they all thought it was very entertaining. I am looking forward to the next episode.