Behind the Lines


This 1997 British film, based on the first book in Pat Barkerís war trilogy, is set during World War I, which in some ways was one of the nastiest wars ever fought.It was trench warfare, it was mustard gas, it was almost unimaginably stupid in the way the generals fought the war.


The film focuses not on the war but the emotional impact the war had on the soldiers.Most of the scenes are at the Edinburgh, Scotland military hospitalís mental ward at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917.Although other patients are pictured, the key ones are two of that warís most famous poets---Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.The other key character is the doctor who is treating them.It is the doctorís job to get them well enough so that they can go back to the front lines.This task is slowly driving the doctor crazy as he appreciates how horrible the war is but sees no alternative.The main reason Sassoon is in the hospital is because he is protesting the war.Since he is a war hero, they canít call him a coward so they label him mentally unbalanced and ship him off to the hospital.


By the end of the film Sassoon and Owen both return to the war---Owen is killed in battle.Although the film is not a documentary, these two men were famous poets in real life and you might want to go and read some of their poetry in order to more fully appreciate the film.


For me the most important scene in the film is where the kind doctor that is treating Sassoon and Owen goes to another hospital to observe how that doctor is treating his patients.He brags that he has a 100% cure rate and that he does this in only one treatment.What he does is torture his patients so viciously that they are literally shocked out of their illness.


This scene dramatically relates to us what ends our government will go to meet its goals.It is the old question of whether or not you can justify any means you can think up as long as you believe the end justifies those means.


What are your goals, your ends?What are the means you are using to attain those ends?Are the means really ones that are in your best interest?Should you consider changing your goals so that you donít utilize negative means in order to achieve them?These are eternal questions and ones that each of us should ask ourselves from time to time as a test as to what we are doing to our lives and to the lives of others.