14 – Diaries of the Great War (DVD) – Series Review
Follow Genre: Documentary, drama
Director: Jan Peter
Distributor: Polyband

14 – Diaries of the Great War (DVD) – Series Review

Site Score
Good: Intresting, informative, covers a lot of subjects
Bad: Inconsistent acting
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(5 votes)
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Rating: 7.8/10 (5 votes cast)

Last Tuesday, 11 November 2014, was the celebration of the 100th birthday of the Armistice, the day that World War I (The Great War) ended. The war started on 28 July 1914, after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. It would last for four years, until the Armistice on 11 November 1918. The war would cause the early death of around 16 million people, soldiers and civilians alike. In 2014, LOOKS created a drama documentary series covering the events of the war, by following the lives of real historic people.

14-diaries-of-the-great-warIn 14 – Diaries of the Great War we follow the lives of fourteen people, all in different countries and different occupations, over the course of the four years of the war. The series spans eight episodes, each one going into detail about a specific subject. While a great part of 14 – Diaries of the Great War is acted out, there is also quite a lot of historic video material integrated into the episodes.

Each episode starts with a little summary how life was before the war, adding some contrast to the dreary world of violence. In the first episode, “Abyss”, we are introduced to a couple of characters who wish to join the army. The mood is still quite lively and just about everyone thinks that going to war is the best idea ever. We start following an individual in all of the affected areas: a Scottish nurse, an English volunteer of the ripe age of 50, a Russian Cossack girl that ends up joining the army, an Australian living in Germany and many others. The interesting thing is that this allows the creators to have different points of view within the show, allowing more detail than just the black and white representation of “Germany did it”.


The following seven episodes dwell upon certain aspects of the war, using the different characters as guides. In the following two episodes, “The Onslaught” and “The Anguish”, we get into the hardships of the war, both for the civilians and the soldiers. The fourth episode, “The Heart’s Desire”, talks about love (and the absence of it) during the war. We learn that the condom was basically a World War I product. In a later episode, “The Uprising”, we see how the Russian tsar is overrun by the rebellion and the effects this has on the war.

Let’s get the bad things out of the way first. The acting in 14 – Diaries of the Great War is not consistent. There are some actors who do a tremendous job (Celia Bannerman, Mikaël Fitoussi, Jonas Friedrich Leonhardi), while others (Emilie Aubertot, Christina Große) really couldn’t handle the needed emotional performance that is demanded when one is acting out a woman that is crushed by the death of her son. The series is also made for a very English audience, meaning that instead of having subtitles, they dub the lines. This wouldn’t be a problem however, but the director (Jan Peter) has chosen to have the real language still audible underneath the English dub, which tends to take you out of the scene completely.

14-diaries-of-the-great-war-1Having said all that, this is a great series. The idea of showing the normal life of different people during the war is as simple as it is brilliant. You will have people who you identify with and people you thoroughly dislike. If you would happen to be a history major concentrating on World War I events, there shouldn’t be any new information in the documentary. For others (such as yours truly) this wasn’t the case. There’s a lot of interesting information that’s being thrown out at you. The old footage is wonderful, and, at times, conveys more information in the 10 minutes that they’re shown then the entire episode did. The acting does improve in later episodes, mostly due to the fact that not everybody is followed to the end.

The series is also quite effective in demonstrating the one certainty of World War I: it was a very useless war which forced millions of people to die in vain. With the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, we should all remember how costly war truly is and do everything we can to avoid such acts.


14 – Diaries of the Great War successfully mixes real footage of the Great War with acted scenes. The scenes are taken from diaries written down in the time period. It gives us a very interesting insight in the lives of a diverse cast, coming from all the regions of the world. If you wish to learn more about the Great War, this is an excellent place to start.

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14 - Diaries of the Great War (DVD) - Series Review, 7.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

1 Comment

  1. 3rd-strike.com | Patria (DVD) – Movie Review
    December 27, 2014, 03:24

    […] the documentary that was reviewed a couple of weeks ago (14 – Diaries of the Great War) we found out that this was pretty much the standard behavior of kids during that period. They […]

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