Joyeux Noel (2005, French)
Director: Christian Carion
Cast: Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis
Genre: History, War
Plot: Christmas ceases the fire!
Based on some real events/stories of WWI, Joyeux Noel simply leaves you speechless with its in-depth and immaculately scripted showcase. Music plays a vital role all through the movie, especially the Scottish bagpiper and German opera.
It starts with an appalling scene of French, German and Scottish youngsters reciting their anti-enemy lines in cold bold. You witness this horrendous murder of innocence (nothing graphic, it is all sheer vibes) and tone is set for remaining movie.
The next scene features the dreaded WWI Trenches and starts-off bloodily somewhat like “Paths of Glory” but from there on the movie takes a completely different turn.
Now, the film revolves around the German, French and Scottish standoff at no man’s land and this standoff remains in the back drop throughout the movie. Christmas is around the corner and the soldiers on all sides-at the Western-Front want the cursed war to end.
There is a French Lieutenant who left behind his pregnant wife in occupied France to attend the war-call, Lieutenant’s helper/assistant who misses his mother and her coffee, a Scottish priest who-untouched by politics of faith-actually preaches about humanity and two Scottish brothers. Two lost in love German opera singers separated by war-Anna, Sprink. These and few others form the core of the movie. Their stories are interwoven-not literally-at an emotional level and by Christmas Eve combined feelings of all three sides reach the threshold of something spectacular. What happens now completely defies the purpose/need of war and, to this day, is a lesson in morality for us all.
All three warring sides call a truce and make merry together. This merry making isn’t just about having fun, you get to feel some of the most complex human emotions captured elaborately on-screen.
Some sequences leave you spell-bound, e.g., Sprink coming out singing from German trenches-ignoring orders and probable enemy bullets-and being chorused by the bagpipe, Father Palmer sermon delivered in a language (Latin) not understood by most, Anna’s soul full song that leaves everyone too moved to applause, Jonathan writing to his mother on-behalf of his dead brother.
There are some genuine fun moments too, like, the football match, the exchange of chocolates and wines, the alarm clock that mysteriously rings at a particular time, and to top them all there is a cat (Felix/Nestor) who is addressed by different names among all the sides.
A piece from the movie:
“General Audebert: You and your men will rejoin the Verdun sector. You’re right about one thing. I don’t understand this war. My corps was the cavalry. You should have made a career of it, like I said. Today, I’m asked to fight a way where the shovel outweighs the rifle. In which people swap addresses with the enemy to meet when it’s all over. Plus the cat we found with a note from the Germans, “Good luck, comrades!” I was ordered to arrest the cat for high treason… until further notice.”
Of course, the personnel involved in this fraternization were ultimately punished.
And if all this wasn’t enough-Diane Kruger, beautiful as ever, emits Donna Reedesque radiance!
Indeed a must watch.