Friday, December 24, 2010

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005)

Starring: Benno Furmann, Guillaume Canet, Daniel Bruhl
Director: Christian Carion

"Joyeux Noel" (or "Merry Christmas" in English) is a 2005 French film about the real-life World War I Christmas truce. It focuses on a number of German, French, and Scottish soldiers who in December of 1914 lay down their arms in order to put a stop to the fighting, if only briefly, and fraternize with each other.

This movie kind of has an unfair advantage. I say this because it was probably going to be good no matter what anyone did to it just because it is such an amazing story. Well, then again, anything is possible, especially in the realm of film making; I guess we should be thankful that this was a foreign film as opposed to one created by Hollywood. Anyway, whatever the case, it turned out very well. It did a fantastic job of showing the difficulties of fighting a war against those with such a similar culture and who under normal circumstances would be your friendly neighbors instead of the people who you are being ordered to kill. While there are strands of uneasiness and animosity, the troops genuinely want to be at peace with their counterparts, as they drink together, exchange information about themselves and their living conditions in the trenches, and even play soccer against one another (okay, they're European, so its technically football).

You know how when you are a little kid (or even as an adult) you get really depressed when Christmas comes to an end? Well...how do you think these guys must have felt? Almost needless to say, the soldiers on both sides find it very difficult to go back to the bloodshed after two days of harmony. They refuse to shoot the enemy, and even go so far as to hide them in their respective trenches during artillery bombings. Eventually, however, the military leaders intervene and the inevitable realities of war rear their ugly heads. Still, the extraordinary peace that these men experienced during those few days remains with them, if only in mind and spirit.

I know this review seems more like a summery than an actual critique, but that is mostly because the story itself does reveals most of the emotion and power involved in the movie. As I mentioned, there was the small possibility of that it would fail, but this was far from the case. The performances are excellent, there are a number of great lines exchanged between the characters and the music that is sung or played throughout the picture is fantastic. All of these factors make it a really wonderful and inspiring film to watch anytime of the year, but especially over the holidays, and I strongly recommend it.

This review, while a little short, seems like a fitting one to post on the site on Christmas Eve, though more reviews will be featured before the year comes to a close. Merry Christmas.