On 11 November 2018, a full century will have passed since the end of World War 1. Also known as The Great War, it was the first truly global conflict in history, resulting in the loss of millions of lives and considerable material damage, as well as a legacy of unresolved imperial and nationalistic issues, whose influence would continue to be felt for decades. Thus, on this special occasion, it is important to examine why ‘the war to end all wars’ failed to do so, and to try to learn from its ambiguous lessons in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is exactly with this goal in mind that the student-lead Words of WW1 was created.
Words of WW1 is an exciting new project, which aims to create a series of videos to showcase poetry written by soldiers on both sides of the Western Front. It was initiated by a group of university students who realized the two-fold importance of preserving First World War poetry. On the one hand for its documentary value, as the primary means of expression for soldiers who wanted to give a voice to their experience on the battlefield. On the other hand, as a way for the contemporary reader to look into their mind, to feel and empathize with their very human, individual experiences. Filming will take place at the modern day remnants of World War 1 sites, which even a century later still carry an eerie, sinister atmosphere, impossible to reconstruct elsewhere. This will help convey a personal impression of the conflict, thus inviting viewers to commemorate and identify with these men and learn from voices long gone. The actual process of shooting will start at beginning of July in various locations throughout France and Belgium, and will include an orator reciting poems from various national literatures: English, French, German, American etc. These have been carefully selected from anthologies according to various criteria – among which language, gender, theme, length and readability – in order to demonstrate the universal nature of war experiences such as fear, death, disillusion with reality etc.
The videos will not only include poem recitals, but will also incorporate abstract elements and cinematographic techniques in order to illustrate the psychological effects of the First World War and accentuate the meaning of the poetry being recited. These have a thematic unity, following the stages of the war through the poetry of the soldiers who fought in it. Hence the poems will be released and watched in such an order as to show how the soldier’s experience of the conflict developed: broadly, this reflects a progression from nationalistic enthusiasm for conflict to its horrid front-line reality and, eventually, to cynicism and doubt. The final product will be an interactive videos series embedded in a professional website, allowing for a natural navigation and an exploration of background material (historical context). An entry from the ‘roll of honour’, compiled by the WW1 commemoration group, will be included at the end of each video, containing a picture and story-link about a University of Glasgow student, staff of alumni who participated in the war.
With its wide scope and inter-disciplinary approach, Words of World War 1 is a truly unique project, paying homage to the fallen soldiers and their stories through a mix of film and literature, which has the potential to reach an international audience with the occasion of the centennial of 1918. If you are interested in the topic and would like to find out more about the project and its development, you can follow it on Facebook, searching @WordsOfWW1.