The demise of the British stiff-upper lip is nigh. Blame it on Diana's death, Louise Woodward's emotional reprieve - heck, blame it on William Hague's stinkin' baseball cap. Whatever causes this country to become a pack of wailers, some would say the future is clear: a tissue- littered slot on Oprah!
There is much gnashing of teeth at the thought that the cool, logical British - Mr Spock of the western world - are going to become yet another race of clothes-tearing, hair-pulling, wailing, nancy boys.
Hope not. I admire the stiff upper lip - probably because I can't do it. I couldn't do it if you held a gun to my head. I bitch and moan about the smallest thing without a thought of how it affects others. Only by observing my British chums have I seen how neat and practical it is to keep one's cakehole closed in moments of grief, terror, danger or shock. I suppose even a Tarantino-tinted character understands the real value of "shutting the f*** up".
The stiff upper lip is more than silence. It is the forbearance of suffering. Regal or repressed, it is the nature of this which is pivotal to one of the most interesting films I've seen this year. Regeneration, an exquisitely beautiful, almost literally gut-wrenching film about WWI, is released in London today (although not on generally until January). Anyone who has an abiding interest in Britain's emotional health should see this unflinching examination of the trauma of soldiers in that war.
One focus of Regeneration is poet Siegfried Sassoon's stay in an asylum for shell-shocked soldiers run by Dr William Rivers (a heart-melting Jonathan Pryce - the baddie in the new Bond film). After publishing an anti-war pamphlet, the soldier is interviewed by Rivers, who says, "You must have been in agony," referring to the poet's anguish at the way the war had gone. "Agony," says Sassoon - played with astonishing clarity by James Wilby, "is lying in a trench with your legs shot off. I was upset."
Nothing sums up the idea of the stiff upper lip so well. Regeneration is not simplistically anti-war, nor bombastically pro-heroic. It is the story of British emotional history circa 1917. See it - if you've got the nerve.Reuse content