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Joyeux Noel (2005) PG-13 1h 56min

April 9th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 12,246 Views

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“Joyeux Noël” (”Merry Christmas” (UK/US title) or “Happy Christmas”) is a drama set in 1914 during World War I and is inspired by a true story. The film is an international project involving people and locations from France, Germany, UK, Romania and Belgium. The movie is in English, German and French, with English subtitles.

The plot: World War I. 1914. Christmas eve. German, Scottish and French troops prepare to open their presents and try to avoid fighting each other. A German soprano Anna Sörensen (Diane Kruger, voiced by Natalie Dessay) convinces prince of Prussia to sing for the German high command on Christmas eve together with her husband Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann voiced over by Rolando Villazón). They come to the Western front to perform. The Scottish Lieutenant Gordon (Alex Ferns) and the French Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) have an unauthorized meeting with the German Lieutenant Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl) and negotiate a truce for that night, and Anglican priest Palmer (Gary Lewis) celebrates a mass for the soldiers. But when their superiors find out, all must face the consequences.

The good: Great, heartwarming story based on real events, when in 1914 in many places along the front line the fighting troops met on No-Man’s Land and celebrated Christmas together, buried their dead together and played football together during a 1-day informal truce (although there is no historical record of any women singing at the front line). Written and directed by Christian Carion, who was nominated for BAFTA Film Award for this movie. Great camera work. Powerful acting. The movie underlines the humanity of all soldiers and how foreign and preposterous the war is to humanity. People were celebrating together – the birth of Christ and their common values and realizing that they are just pawns in the hands of their rulers. I know I will be frowned upon for referencing Karl Marx, but this movie really shows that many wars are fought by simple working-class people for the benefit of the ruling class of the wealthy – a primary reason why in Russia the Tsar has lost power and provisional government lost its credibility and people could not longer tolerate the rule of the rich, which resulted in February and later October revolution. The film also shows the role of the Church in the war. There’s humor in this war movie too: a sequence where French soldiers are jealous that Germans and Scots are celebrating and French were not invited, and a sequence where all sides are disputing the ownership rights to a stray cat. Beautiful music and singing voices. It was amazing how people who a minute ago were killing each other were unified by a song.

The bad: Minor historical inaccuracies. Unnatural lighting in all Christmas eve trench scenes was distracting – could not get rid of the feeling that there are people with lamps and projects standing around the movie set. The trenches are all brand-new and clean. The only reference to the horrors of war in the movie is the tenor confessing to his lover that he has lice and frozen bodies on the battle field. There’s no build up.

Memorable quotes:

Anglican bishop: “The forces of good against the forces of evil. For this war is indeed a crusade! A holy war to save the freedom of the world. In truth I tell you: the Germans do not act like us, neither do they think like us, for they are not, like us, children of God. Are those who shell cities populated only by civilians the children of God? Are those who advanced armed hiding behind women and children the children of God? With God’s help, you must kill the Germans, good or bad, young or old. Kill every one of them so that it won’t have to be done again. The Lord be with you.”

General Audebert: I don’t understand you. Carousing with the enemy while the country’s partly occupied!
Lieutenant Audebert: The country? What does it know of what we suffer here? Of what we do without complaint? Let me tell you, I felt closer to the Germans than those who cry, “Kill the Krauts!” before their stuffed turkey!

The summary: A great Christmas movie set during World War I.

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Rated 5/5 on Apr 9 2009
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Tags: Belgium · Classic Films · DVD · Drama · Epics/Historical · Foreign · France · Germany · Movies · Romania · UK · War

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 susan shaw // Jul 3, 2009 at 7:36 pm

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    You forget to mention the heavy emphasis and utilisation of the catholic church. Of course there are scenes with the evil british cardinal spouting hate, but the rest was an infomerical for Catholicism, forget even mentioning the blatant anti semitism with Daniel Bruhl’s German Captain being Jewish and being the one major Jerk on the battlefield, being particularly cruel to the major protagonist, even refusing his wife safe shelter on the front lines… why even mention the religious orientation of this character, and why is the only Jewish character such a jerk for no reason and with having nothing to do with the main plot?

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