Joyeux Noel – (War, Drama, Historical, Music, 2005) (12) D/W: Christian Carion C: Benno Furmann, Diane Kruger, Ian Richardson . 1h 56m. France.
On christmas eve during WWI the Germans, French and Scottish fraternise and get to know the men who are on the opposite side of a brutal war, in what became a true lesson of humanity.
This was a poignant insight into a true occurrence during the first christmas of the Great War. Although the legend of the football matches and cease fire was not generalised it did happen, along the front line and probably wasn’t as “pretty” as this film makes out but the humanity of the event is probably as sincere.
There were moments when I thought the film might just turn into a full blown singing and dancing musical but it did help display that music is a universal language as much as prayer in some cases.
The story revolved around the love affair of Nikolaus and Anna (Benno Furmann and Diane Kruger) and obviously the German, French and Scottish legions. The men decided to have a moment of clarity on an otherwise deathly Christmas eve and drop guns and celebrate together. Which goes to show that “war” is always just political action. Unfortunately the dirty work is carried out by those who don’t necessarily want any part of it.
There are lots of interactions between the men that illustrate them visiting each other and knowing each other before the war, e.g visiting one and others hotel etc. It displays that there was a unified Europe before the war.
There is a feature of this movie which plays out similar to that in Schindler’s List (1993) Where an unknown person is clearly visible, in Schindlers it was the girl in the red coat, in Joyeux Noel it is a German and his 10am alarm clock. Both characters play an important role to remind you without knowing fully, that human beings are involved here.
A lot of small comedy moments are included, it’s hard to add this into a war movie without the cast looking like ball sacks but it’s focused on the officers and lets face it. we’re all routing for infantry.
The language barriers are addressed in a logical way, the sets and wardrobes seem authentic to me but alas I am no historian. I was a little dubious about Benno being transported here and there at very short notice and so quickly but none of the transportation is shown, maybe to focus on the situation!? I dunno.. but he seemed to have no trouble getting out of the front line when he needed to.
The music aspect of this movie was the most annoying part, I’m not a fan of musicals myself but a catchy tune helps, understandably for this film the music had to fit. Lets just say that I didn’t rush out to get the OST. I’m pretty sure that it could have been crafted in a better way.
Another factor which shocked me a little about this film is that I knew from the start that this was WWI, no doubt about it.. but after watching for about an hour or so when one of the German officers said he appreciate the prayers even though he was Jewish I hit pause.. I couldn’t work out how a German officer could be Jewish then it finally sunk in again that it was WWI… it’s amazing how after watching so many WWII movies after hearing the German and seeing the war aspect my brain just clicked into WWII phase.. Is cinema making me racist!? Lol I kid..
This movie is quite engaging and a really compassionate insight into a small but vitally important snippet of the Great War.
T: One of the last films Ian Richardson made before his death on February 9th 2007.
Q: What the hell are you doing, Shoot the bloody kraut, shoot him god damn it the holidays are OVER!
R: Schindler’s List (1993), The English Patient (1996).