Q. How did this project get started? A. Seventy years after the beginning of the Second World War, it seemed both exciting and important to tell the story of the war in a different way. Many documentaries tell the Second World War with a national or even nationalist point of view, whereas we take an international perspective. We have also tried to be as close as possible to the famous or ordinary men and women, who have experienced or became the victims of the war.
Q. How long did it take to find and identify the footage included in Apocalypse? A. We began the research and the deciphering of the archives at the beginning of 2007 and completed the editing in May 2009. Overall, it has taken us two years and a half to collect and to identify these 600 hours of archives from more than 100 sources in 17 countries.
Q. What is the most unusual or bizarre place some of this footage was found? A. The never released images come from collections, which are not digitalized and even not indexed in the big film archives. These archives have many incredible resources very valuable for the researchers. For example, Nara of USA, ECPAD (the film archive of armies) in France, NHK in Japan, and the film archive of Krasgonorsk in Russia.
Those images also come from the “home movies” that we found in the private German or French collections or in the English regional film archives. These amateur films, in colour, were recently found in family houses by the descendants of the people who lived the war.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of reviewing this much footage? A. The most difficult part has been how to make the heart-rending decisions not to use some incredible images, which unfortunately cannot serve the narration. The dramatic intensity of the history is our top priority.
Q. What is an example of memorable footage that did not make it into the series and why was it not included? A. We had to reject the most unbearable images, and also many excellent sequences, for instance:
-Heads of the Japanese soldiers in the mesh bag that the Papous hold proudly -Waffen SS school where we see the soldiers learning quietly how to make the war (courses on military strategies and of mathematics…) -Young undressed women who dance in a music hall, in one propaganda film made for the American solders in Asia pacific to celebrate Christmas. -The great amateur plans of the young Italian resistance fighters in their daily life (they manipulate the arms, discuss, and laugh)
Q. What is the colourisation process like? How long does it take to colourise just one minute of film? A. Before the colourisation, we had to restore the images that could be damaged. Then we verified with French and international historians on the colours of the uniforms, the airplanes, the tanks, the vehicles, the locations, etc. You cannot imagine the number of different uniforms in all armies during wartime! Such research would not have been done without the Internet and the dozens of passionate Second World War collectors and historians.
Once the colours were decided, the colourisation was made at the pace of 1 minute per day.
Q. How has working on this series changed your understanding of WWII? A. To describe the entire Second World War in only 6 episodes of 52’ was a true challenge. The film directors, Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle, have seized the essential part. The chain of events through which the war has developed into a worldwide one is very clear.
Q. What is the one thing you hope viewers take away from watching this series? A. This series shows the most devastating war of all time and human tragedy. The soldiers from all countries suffered severely from the violence of the battles, but for the first time, there were more civilian victims than military ones. The images of the suffering of ordinary people will definitely stay in our memory.