1990s Behind The Lines (1997)

Published on March 10th, 2013 | by Chris


Behind The Lines (1997)

Movie directed by:
Gillies MacKinnon

Reviewed by:
On March 10, 2013
Last modified:February 17, 2013


Definitely difficult at times, but thought provoking and surely soul searching....

Behind The Lines (1997)

Behind The Lines, or Regeneration, depending on where you see it, takes place during World War I in an Army mental hospital in Scotland.  Dr. Capt. Rivers (Jonathan Pryce) is the lead doctor in charge of rehabilitating soldiers suffering from PTSD, or as it was called then "shell shock."  His job, to put it bluntly, is to get these guys over their "shock" and back out in the trenches.

Lt. Sassoon (James Wilby) gets sent to Rivers, due to a manifesto he's written condemning the war on a political level.  Really nothing wrong with him, per se, just they don't want him on the lines influencing the men.  But, in my opinion, Sassoon really is not the focus of this movie.  Don't fall for it.

Also in the hospital is Lt. Billy Prior, (Jonny Lee Miller) whom we spend much more time with and get to know so much more than Sassoon.   At first, he's in a state of "mutism" as the doctor puts it, where he can't speak due to his mental trauma.  Eventually he and the doctor work through that, and finally through the root of Prior's problem, which up until now he hasn't been able to remember.  Seems he witnessed one 0f his men literally blown to bits by a German shell (in a rather grisly scene I might add)...   Once this memory surfaces, Prior starts his road to recovery...

...but then there is the good Doctor.  All these years of dealing with mentally damaged soldiers is taking its toll on him.  In fact, he's beginning to suffer from the same symptoms, after hearing these stories and seeing first hand the mental trauma that this war is causing.  I think that this, more than anything is the central point of the movie.  Just how horrible it all is, so much so that even the doctor is not immune to it.

There are several other ancillary stories that bear mentioning, such as Prior's foray into the nearby town and his meeting a girl, Sarah (Tanya Allen) which probably helped in his recovery also.  There's the story of poet Wilfred Owen, who once "cured" was sent back out, only to be killed in action.  And the strange field trip to another similar facility, where shock treatments are being tested as a means to "cure" these individuals....  Although it appears more tantamount to torture....

As for Sassoon?  He also gets sent back, but with a slightly better fate than others.   Since he was never "crazy" to begin with, though, he was never really cured, but rather still adamant in his position, although agreeable to working within the system.....

The doctor, though, is helped by the very patients he aims to cure, and I suppose it all works out.  If nothing else I guess you could say that there are lessons here that are really timeless.  That these wounds, while not physical, are indeed real and that they require attention and help to either get through, or at the very least deal with on a daily basis.....

Behind The Lines gets a 3.5/5 from me.  Definitely difficult at times, but thought provoking and surely soul searching....

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In the midst of WWI, Edinburgh's Craiglockhart Hospital is crowded with traumatized soldiers scarred by the horrors of battle. Dr. William Rivers (Jonathan Pryce, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), the hospital psychiatrist who hovers on the edge of a nervous breakdown as he attempts to 'cure' the incurable; the eminent writer Siegfried Sassoon, a sane soldier sent to Craiglockhart following the publication of his anti-war poetry; Wilfred Owen (James Wilby, Gosford Park), a writer whose craft is transformed by Sassoon's support; and Billy Prior (Jonny Lee Miller, Endgame), a mute officer involved in a tender love affair, bring the era to life in this compelling, ""stirring and articulate exploration of warfare…"" (The New York Times).

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Echo Bridge Entertainment
Manufacturer: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
  • Jonathan Pryce
  • James Wilby
  • Jonny Lee Miller


  • Factory sealed DVD


Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This fills a needed niche: there is too little film treatment of combat-derived PTSD, December 1, 2016
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This review is from: Regeneration (DVD)
I've read all three of the Barker books, the first of which is the basis of this movie. And I've seen the movie. I appreciated it. Many of the attitudes portrayed will be impossible for those who have not been in combat to comprehend, but we wounded soldiers - of any conflict - can understand how these men felt. (It's important to caution, though, that those w/ PTSD should approach this w/ due wariness. Note that!)

A film can't portray to "never-served's" what it FEELS like in combat. For those of us who have been there, though, - in any war - we vividly relive the smells, the shock waves, and the multitude of long-accumulated discomforts (headaches, hunger, bruises, rashes, cuts, sprains, infections - and the unique dumbing effect of months of sleep-deprivation), and the constant, long-term exposure to weather that we had no choice but to experience to the full, the often disturbing sights that we've seen, and the emotional numbing that some of us would fight... Read more
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "He has a 100% cure rate.Yes,but so does death"., July 10, 2012
NIGEL R COOK (LEAGUE CITY, TEXAS USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Regeneration (DVD)
Regeneration shows the human cost and misery that all wars have. This film deals with the attempts to make men mentally well enough to go back to the carnage of the Western Front after they have broken down or become shell shocked.The war poets Sassoon and Owen are an interesting subplot ,Sassoon having been sent to get "well" after having spoken out against the war.Birdsong (the book)also touches on some of the same themes of men who retreat inwards and are never the same.This film is worth seeing but it is not easy viewing.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big Question "Why?" Dramatized by WWI Soldier-Poets, March 22, 2014
John Michael Albert (Portsmouth NH) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Regeneration (DVD)
(Regeneration, original British release; released as Behind the Lines in the US) I've already watched this several times. Mind you, I approach it as a poet who has a tremendous interest in the "soldier poets" of World War I: Sassoon, Brooke, Graves and Owen. (This film is about the brief mentor/student relationship between Sassoon and Owen in a hospital for traumatized military officers.) It is not a sensationalist film. It's not full of spectacular battle scenes and heroic triumphs. Rather, there is a little tension on the reins, it feels held back at all times, so that both the actors/characters and the viewer have time to think, to reflect as the story unfolds. Very well done. I'm sure I'll watch it again every month or so, when I return to my awareness that life is totally out of control and the caution light keeps flashing, "Why?"
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Behind The Lines (1997) Chris



User Rating: 3.5 (1 votes)

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

One Response to Behind The Lines (1997)

  1. Includes disturbing scenes that make you think and might stay with you for a while.

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