From the Lightning War “Blitzkrieg” to President Truman’s fateful decision for Hiroshima , the major events of World War II have been released on Netflix in 2019 as 10-part documentary series using highly advanced colorization techniques. The production, narrated by Derek Jacobi, used rare footage from Japan and Russia, among other countries, much of it has never been seen before.
The variety of documentary series or films is undoubtedly important for today’s generation to keep alive, as well as one of the most tragic events in modern history. Reminding the horrors of this conflict is simply a duty and nothing works on imagination better than well-prepared live footage, photos and expert commentaries. Especially nowadays, it is hard to imagine teenagers reaching for good historical study in book form (obviously there are some exceptions).
Documentary series has been prepared and realized in the United Kingdom and contains one season of ten 50-minute episodes. Each of them mostly tells the story of different crucial events of World War II, but still manages to discuss minor events in between. Although the viewers “jump” around and between individual frontes, battles and theaters of war, all ten episodes are arranged to show chronologically the course of war’s actions. The series features commentary from historians, experts from particular fields of study and even World War II participants from various countries (e.g. Britains, Germans, Americans and Jewish representatives) which helps to maintain objectivity of the series without using one-planned propaganda. Apart from the lecturer Derek Jacobi who, it seems, mindlessly read out the phrases prepared for him (or maybe it is how it should be?), there were several commentators, such as Saul David from the University of Buckingham who stood out from them sharing his knowledge with undying passion. Nevertheless, despite the fact of participation of people of different nationalities and maintaining objectivity, it still seems to be, somehow, based on British perspective.
The series points out and covers major events: beginnig with Germany’s blitzkrieg (otherwise known as Lightning War) in Poland and western Europe, and the further episodes deals with more usual affairs like bombing Pearl Harbour, Allied landings in Normandy or the Battle of Stalingrad finishing sequence with demolition of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear weapon. Although all events are tragic in themselves, definitely the most harrowing episode is the Allied liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Greatest Event of World War II in Colour series is such a historical pill of knowledge about a slice of World War II fate – literally. It has to be emphasized that for people who have even some historical knowledge (perhaps acquired during education), there is nothing unusual. It gives to the audience, very fundamental information about the tide of the war. Despite that fact, used real footage brightens production in itself and the colouring of the frames make the events that took place over 80 years ago, even more closer and thus, more poignant.
Although the events of World War II are covered here in a simplified manner, this series is worth watching due to several reasons. Firstly, the digitally reconstructed and coloured scenes from that period make the viewer feel that World War II was not as long ago as we think. It works on viewers’ imagination and makes them experience and realize the enormity of this tragedy much more strongly. Secondly, despite the fact, as written above, that there are shown most, not all, crucial events of the conflict, they are arranged logically and chronologically which allows settling everything that happened more than 70 years ago into a coherent whole. Thirdly, it is a series created with the participation of historians and participants of World War II of various nationalities such as British, Germans, Americans, and Jewish or Russian nationalities. This makes the whole image and description relatively objective. For nationalities who directly suffered from conflicts such as Poles or French, it should be even more valuable, because it allows viewers to understand how this conflict was (or rather is) perceived by other nations which have experienced different incidents. Lastly, everything is presented in an understandable and captivating form. Moreover, the series is based on 95% of original recordings from that period which makes it more encouraging to watch than other directed productions.
However, there is one issue that was highly criticized by many audiences, including me. The map presented in one of the episodes was distorted and full of mistakes. In particular, the map of Poland was distorted and did not reflect the real shape at that time. This caused a fully justified stir. After all, this is a documentary production that is supposed to play an educational role. The directors apologized for the mistake but the distaste remained. Overall, despite all flaws, I honestly find myself highly satisfied after each episode.