Regeneration/Behind the Lines (1997)… A 100 years since WWI



My rating: 7.1

IMDB rating: 8

IMDB link: Regeneration/Behind the Lines

Dearest reader,

At the University where I work we have at least two successful cinema clubs. The first of which is based in the art history department and the second which is based in the French department. The very fortunate thing about being a humanities scholar is that interdisciplinary research is encouraged. This year, our French cinema club actively commemorated the First World War that took place a hundred years ago. This film concluded the events- and what a film it was!

It seems to me that the First World War is often overshadowed by the Second World War. WWII certainly had more genocide and mass killings, but in terms of WWI, it was also a more technological war. WWI, on the other hand, had much more physical man to man violence without the “benefit” of technology. In that sense it was more cruel and calculated, but it also left the soldiers with a lot more scars.

This film is about those scars. The scars left on the psyche of a young man (some as young as 16) as a result of traumatic events such as these. Trauma is therefore dealt with very directly in this film. There is no way around the effects and the aftermath of the war and as is the case with trauma, the trauma cannot be processed without the creation of a logical narrative.

As one sees with the character of Lt. Prior, trauma is not necessarily one specific life altering event. Trauma is in most cases the accumulation of several traumatically tainted events which leads to one intense experience of trauma. In the film, the doctor explains these events in terms of erosion- the events erode and erode the mind until the subject experiences a break.

Beside the fact that the film also charts the history of two famous poets, one who would survive the war and another who won’t, it shows WWI as indeed a ‘class war’. What is meant by this is that this war still makes a distinction between those who are foot soldiers and the generals.

In a very disturbing scene electroshock therapy is applied to one of the foot soldiers. Upon returning, the doctor describes this method as merely the repairing of a machine, where foot soldiers with bomb shock is given this therapy until they are “cured” only to be able to return to the field.

This film serves as a interesting adaptation of Pat Baker’s novel of the same name. Most definitely worth the watch!

Want to read more on Regeneration/Behind the Lines? Try these…

NYTimes: Regeneration

A.V. Club: Regeneration

ReelViews: Regeneration


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