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Mental Illness: Major Films   no photo.
TitleRegeneration (1997)
Alternative/Original Title
DisabilityMental Psychiatry War Stuttering
CountryCanada / UK
DirectorGillies MacKinnon
CastJonathan Pryce James Wilby Jonny Lee Miller Stuart Bunce David Hayman
NotesA psychiatrist is affected by the stories of shell-shocked soldiers of WWI. The action is set in and around the Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland which was used during WWI for soldiers who had been left in a state of shock from serving on the front line. There are also severely injured soldiers seen very briefly in another part of the hospital. The film concentrates on the state of these men with a few flashes of the brutalizing war in the trenches. Jonathan Pryce plays the doctor who is entrusted with 'curing' them though as the film develops we learn how his mental state has been affected by listening to the stories of his patients. We also learn that there is a general characteristic among the soldiers. The officers all stammer and the other ranks are totally speaking impaired. The doctors approach is to listen quietly to the officers' stories but there is little he can do for the other ranks. Then arrives the well known poet and novelist Siegfried Sassoon. Though he has won the Military Cross (the second highest award for bravery in the U.K. which he later threw in the River Mersey) he has caused a stir by writing an article condemning the conduct of the war. The government embarrassed by this want him declared mad. If he doesn't go as a patient to the hospital he will be court martialled It is also implied that he is gay. Sassoon's story, and we're actually never sure if he is affected mentally by his experiences, is interwoven with the stories of other men. One soldier who is more disturbed than the others was blown into the air by a mortar bomb and landed head first in the stomach of a rotting German corpse. There is another poet, Wilfred Owen. And we see growth of Owen's most famous poem "Anthem for Dead Youth" under the tutelage of Sassoon. Not a lot appears to be done in the way of therapy. One officer is seen drilling a group of boy scouts but mainly we see the doctor listening to his patients and their living a very comfortable (materially) life. The brutal alternative is witnessed when the doctor visits another hospital in London. This place has a hundred per cent record in bringing back the speech of the other ranks. In a scene which will make you flinch the patient is strapped to a chair and the doctor inserts calipers in his mouth and gives the man an electric shock. This is repeated and the strength of the shock increased until the man will ask for it to stop. The battle scenes are the most horrific I've seen. They are all in black and white and you don't see much blood. In one we see a mortar shell land in a trench and then soldiers shovelling the remains of their comrades into a sack. Sassoon decides to go back to the Front. He has not changed his opinion about the war but he feels his men need him. Ironically he is shot in the head by one of his own men (I didn't actually realise this from the film but I know this happened to him). He survives (and beyond the compass of the film went on to support pacifism and socialism.). Wilfred Owen also went back to the Front and won the Military Cross but he was killed one week before the end of the war. From the book by Pat Barker based in real events.

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