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Thanks to a special showing as one of the events to mark the centenary of the Alliance Française in Canada's capital, I had the privilege of attending a North American premiere of this remarkable film just two days before today Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.) Both an appropriate theme and a cinematic Christmas gift come early. I think it may become my top film among several hundred seen this year, just as A Very Long Engagement - also set in the trenches of the First World War - captured my heart and critic's choice last December. Writer-director Christian Carion and all the actors do an amazing job in this multi-country Euro co-production. It should appeal not only to audiences across that continent but to film goers around the world. In addition to presenting a parable from real life relevant for any war-torn age, including our own I might add, Carion works wonders with front-line incidents great and small while drawing compelling individual character portraits from a top notch Scots, French and German cast, each speaking in their native language and accents. That goes for even relatively smaller roles: for example, that of the junior German officer at the front, Lieutenant Horstmayer (ironically a Jew who recalls a Paris honeymoon with his French-speaking wife), as played by the superb young actor Daniel Brühl (Goodbye Lenin, The Edukators). There is so much more that could be said about this remarkable and timely movie with a timeless message. Even had France not chosen Joyeux Nöel as its selection for the 2006 Oscar best foreign-language film category, I would herald it and rejoice in the advent of a new classic that is in another class altogether from the general run of "holiday movies". A story of harsh truths as well as transcendent art, it finds humanity and hope in the midst of battlefield horrors. Seasonal glad tidings indeed!
This very touching story about a true occurrence during the first Christmas of the Great War is very moving. Although the truce was not a generalized event, it did happen in quite a few areas all along the front line. It was the only moment of sanity in an otherwise gruesome experience in futility. Twenty years later, these same countries would be at it again.Karl Marx said that wars are awful events pitting ordinary people (proletariats) one against another for the benefit of the wealthy, the powerful, the aristocrats. This aspect is depicted very well in this movie. I would just like to add a footnote: Alfred Anderson, the last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914 died November 21th, 2005 at a nursing home in his native Scotland. He was 109 years old. Lest we forget.
As I invited a friend with me to watch this movie, I had very low expectations. I usually don't like French movies, and I don't like war movies. At the beginning of Joyeux Noël, the director of the film said that it was based on a true story and that he wished that if we liked the movie, that we would tell everyone about it and recommend it. And so I will! One can't usually laugh of a war movie, but I did. It was filled with much humor, and I found it very amusing! The cat, the music, the people -it was all very incredible, and I will give you my word that I will buy this movie on DVD -it's already on my wish list!!! I recommend everyone to take a look at this significant movie! -Jeanett Stykket, Oslo, Norway
I was sceptical before watching this film but by the end I had tears
running down my cheeks.
By depicting the feelings and destinies of the soldiers, the film demonstrated the absurdity of war and how each soldier is more than a mere cannon target. It is a commentary on the utter stupidity of politics governing war events from behind curtains while not actually experiencing the real war. By depicting a unique event in European war history that occurred on Christmas day 1914 it shows viewers that Europeans can be as one even as "enemies".
About ten years ago I watched Paul McCartney's video "Pipes of Peace" and thought that what it depicted was completely fictitious--nothing more than pacifists' dreams. I have now learned that it was true.
Last night I went to special screening of Joyeux Noël ahead of it's
release on 22nd of December.
Wow, what an amazing movie. As a rule I generally tend to blacklist war movies but this so different.
This is in no way about the glorification of war but instead tells a tale of a group of human beings that see past their differences for one night.
Apparently all based on true events known as the The Christmas Truce of 1914.
I highly recommend this movie to any and all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Zut alors! WW1 drama Joyeux Noel arrives under a big black wintry
cloud, having been selected to represent France in the Best Foreign
Language Film category over the much-hyped March of the Penguins at the
2006 Oscars. Insane, they said! It can't be done, they said! As
co-producer Jean-Francois Camilleri fumed, Penguins (France's most
successful export at the US box office) was "finally a foreign film
that Americans love. It just proves the stupidity of French politics in
Well, sour raisons to yeaux and yeaux and yeaux: unwanted child Joyeux Noel is a joy from start to finish and should hold its head up high against those rambler birdies in dinner jackets.Mostly, we should give thanks and praises that Ron Howard didn't get his hands on it first.
Here's a more-or-less authentic account of that near-mythical Christmas in 1914, when Scottish, French and German soldiers proclaimed a temporary armistice, swapped champagne and cigarettes and played footie together ("looks like trouble for the Jerries", a Scottish soldier observes wryly, like a dug-in Des Lynam). From the sickening horror of No Man's Land, to the elegiac carolling of the bagpipes - and the almost off-hand revelation that Bruhl's German captain is Jewish - everything here is perfectly judged.
There's humour here too, albeit of the slightly mordant variety, and even the appearance of a local French farmyard cat, claimed by each side as their own, doesn't upset the potentially fatal juggling act.
In the midst of this, a living snow angel (Kruger) delivers an ice-melting burst of opera, the impact of which you can blame on a bad cold. The denouement, in which the troops are judged by the superior officers as having been guilty of "high treason" is underscored only by an excoriating sermon by Ian Richardson's Bishop who, far from applauding his priest's generosity of spirit (having delivered "the most important mass I ever gave"), reminds his chastened men that Christ came "not with Peace but with a sword"; that these Godless Germans should be cut down, every man, woman and child. Subtle it ain't, but it does act as a sobering reminder of the Church's culpability in both World Wars.
Ultimately, Joyeux Noel achieves the near-impossible, by keeping the treacle to a minimum while leaving one in no doubt about the finer aspects of humanity. Utterly magical.
I have always had an interest in WW1 and when I discovered that a film
about that conflict was being released, I knew I'd have to see it as
soon as possible. This is a very special movie. Telling the story of
the extraordinary Christmas truce between waring soldiers in the
trenches at Christmas 1914, it demonstrates just how ludicrous war
really is and how the human spirit can overcome blind hatred.
Performances, cinematography and direction don't really matter in this
film. Though all these elements are of a high quality. What's important
about this film is its message. It is a "feel good movie" with a
difference. The difference is that the plot is based on a true event.
It is sure to become a fixture on Christmas T.V. listings over the coming years. But go and see it now. Particularly if, like me, your beginning to get cynical about this time of the year.
Wow! Joyeux Noel was a great movie. I wasn't sure if I was going to
like this film but found it to be moving, heartwarming and a wonderful
The fact that the story is based on real events that happened shows that their is some good in humans across the world. In this story, all sides are respected as humans and the soldiers come to understand that under God, we are all one.
Please, even if you don't normally go to foreign language films or war movies, go to this film. The war scenes are not prolific. You will come out changed and smiling from the inside out!
A truly powerful and must see film about the futility of war.
It depicts that whatever those in power would have us believe there are more similarities between various nationalities than differences.
Wonderful performances by many little known actors.
First class cinematography and other production values.
Illustrates that there can be no war if if if you have no enemy. It is impossible to kill a man with whom you have shared drinks and stories and grown to like
Wonderful music and singing as those who have suffered and fought each other in the trenches slowly gather to mark Christmas Eve by drinking and talking with each other, swapping addresses, singing Christmas carols common to all three nations (Germany, France and Scotland), burying frozen corpses and playing soccer together.
Not perfectly historically accurate but very close to an actual incident, A vivid illustration of the foolishness of war. While some have laid the blame at the feet it is clear that the primary blame lays with those who order others to go to war while safely enjoying the better of things far from the trenches
Writer/director Christian Carion ('Une hirondelle a fait le printemps'
aka 'The Girl from Paris') is unafraid to write and create cinematic
tales that touch the heart as well as the mind. 'Joyeux Noël' is a
story of war and its effects on soldiers that goes far beyond
sentimentality (or the opposite emphasis on brutality as found in
American films) and offers the viewer insights to the responses of
young men's minds to the monster of war and how they cope.
Based on a true story, the film opens with the usual callous killing among three groups of soldiers - German, French, and Scottish - who face an oncoming Christmas Eve in the trenches, the realities of fighting have precluded their getting time to retreat for air. But a miracle happens: among the Germans is a famous opera tenor Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann) who has aligned with his fellow troops in the trenches, hoping he can bring some minor sense of Christmas and understanding to them. His soprano partner Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger) finds a way to be with him in the trenches on Christmas Eve, 1914. Meanwhile the disgruntle troops of all three sectors are planning meager festivities and a bit of relaxation even in the trenches as the bodies of the day's plunder lie in the snow of no man's land. We get to know the French Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) and his orderly Ponchel (Dany Boon), the German head of the regiment Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl), and the Scots - especially the priest/medic Palmer (Gary Lewis).
Christmas Eve comes and the voice of Sprink (in reality the tenor Rolando Villazón) sings 'Stille Nacht', rising out of the trenches to sing in the open of no man's land. Soon he is accompanied by the Scottish bagpipes and the 'chorus' of the Germans, the Scots and the French. They all emerge, share gifts of champagne and other libations, and agree to a cease-fire in honor of the holiday. It is in this magic moment that the true personalities of these warring men surface and each is seen as a vulnerable puppet of the WW I, exchanging addresses to meet after the war. Anna Sorenson has managed to enter the scene and during a communal mass led by Palmer she sings (the voice is Natalie Dessay) an Ave Maria (composed by the film's composer Philippe Rombi): the lovers have previously sung a duet version of Bach's 'Bist du bei mir'. For that moment in time the horrors of war melt and the camaraderie of the men glows and is carried into Christmas Day when all three groups of soldiers agree to bury their dead together. Of course the brutality and ignorance of war re-engages and the leaders of the three groups enter camp and threaten courts martial and punishment for the troops' lack of military discipline. The film ends in a manner that leaves the audience able to integrate the happenings of that Christmas Eve on the futures of these men.
The script is superb, the cast is uniformly excellent, the sets and cinematography are creatively moody, and the musical score by Philippe Rombi is one of the finest in years: the ending song 'I'm Dreaming of Home' deserves to become a standard. Would that everyone could see this film, a bit of global hope in the cloud of the destruction that shadows our world right now. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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