Colourized archival footage of Hitler from Apocalypse, Hitler series © CC&C / DR
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching the terrific French mini-series Apocalypse, Hitler on Télé-Québec. It chronicles the rise of Adolf Hitler until the outbreak of World War II using archival footage, providing some of the back-story to the previous five-part series Apocalypse, World War II, originally broadcast in 2009. One would be justified in saying ‘not another series on WW II or Hitler, please…’ but these series, by Producer/directors Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle (two veterans of historical filmmaking, working as CC&C for Clarke Costelle and Co.) are so well thought out and crafted that they reinvent the telling of history for television.
The archival research is exhaustive, and has been taken in directions not previously explored, including home movies and collections that used to find themselves behind the Iron Curtain. The narration, delivered by the multi-talented actor/director/producer Mathieu Kassovitz, is carefully fine-tuned to interact with the imagery in ways which bring home the meaning and impact of major historical developments for ordinary people. The images have been colourized in a very original way – in fact Daniel Costelle rejects the term “coulourized” and calls the technique “mise en couleurs”, a process which involves measuring grey tones and textures to achieve the right color and involves 3 days of work to process 1 minute of film. Some purists have disapproved of this treatment of archives. Personally I think the procedure is as much artistic license as science, and the result, supported by music by Kenji Kawai, is captivating. Now I’m looking forward to seeing their next effort, L’occupation Intime, on Télé-Québec starting Sunday.
Thanks to Sally Rylett for help with this blog post.