The holidays are full of stress and conflict, you say? You have no idea…
In the wake of WWI, 3 nations are duking it out on the fields of 1914’s Germany. These 3 nations are Germany (of course), England/Scotland, and France. England and France are allies, as most of our school textbooks would tell us, but that doesn’t mean they are a band of brothers by any means. Each side is separate and apart from one other, in units of men who are lonely, depressed, and of course, dying. Yet, there is a moment in the history of the world that will make these 3 groups unexpectedly bond. This moment will be brought on by none other than what some might call “Weihnachten”, and others” Noël”, and still others “Christmas.”
Joyeux Noël (translated “Merry Christmas”) is a film that has a lot of heart. It follows the inspired true story of the act of the Christmas Spirit. When all three sides realize that all they truly want for Christmas is peace, they make that dream a reality. By doing the unthinkable and merging together for several days in a “cease fire” situation where they would celebrate the holidays together. It truly is an inspiring story of bond and unity in the face of war. This film, of course, is not your typical holiday film. The most obvious reason is that it is a War Movie, but don’t judge it for that. Another reason is that it was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. This is just to say that it is a subtitled heavy film (2 thirds of the film to be specific), and may be difficult for some viewers to follow. Another is that the film makes the wise decision not to zone in on any one person. It pays special interest to many individuals from both sides, which is how it should be. These nights didn’t belong to one individual, but rather to all who were involved with such an extraordinary event.
What the film does is show the true hardship of war in a simplistic manner. I for one understand there are times that the decision of war is the only way to right certain wrongs. Yet, what this film does in a magnificent way is put the human nature into perspective. We are not “all connected” as some new age thinkers might proclaim, but we all do share in a bond of unity. Humans in general were given the desire to be and to do good with one another. To be united in fellowship and joy, and not to drive a wedge between one another through hatred and war. When these clashing sides joined for a moment in time, it became a difficult task to bring oneself to go back to the line of fire again when all was said and done. That is because you now know there are humans on the other side that are just like you. Like I said, there are wars I am glad have occurred, for the sake of freedom and inevitable justice. Yet, we as Christians are impressed upon to love those who are our enemies, because they too are humans as we are who have eternal souls as well.
Like I said, this is not a traditional Christmas film. It is full of moral conflict and scenes of sorrow. Along with these differences are some moments of questionable material. For one, my Clearplay filter cut out what is described as a “brief scene of sexual content/nudity,” which is far from appreciated in a holiday flick. But if you have a Clearplay player or a skip button at the ready, it does not throw off the flow at all. Even with this though is the realization that this is a war flick where we see men gunned down in battle. It should be noted, however, that this is a very tame war film when it comes to the limited scenes of battle within it (except for one sad and disturbing story where a boy loses his brother in battle and then turns to what vaguely resembles necrophilia, or just plain over emotion). Imagine an even tamer version of the already tame War Horse, and you will get a good picture of how it is played out.
What it comes down to is that this film is simply about Christmas. No, it does not have a thorough or in-depth story, nor does it contain clever twists and turns. In fact, the film’s story could be called rather basic and to the point, so I won’t go into detail about it here. Yet, we are put in the exact same shoes as the soldiers of those nights. We don’t know many of their backgrounds, and we don’t know much of what happens to the beloved characters after the war starts again. In fact, the only real background we are given is the somewhat corny story of a German officer and his mistress (though Diane Kruger gives a great performance). None of the soldiers knew who they were meeting or who they were leaving, all they knew was they had a bond with fellow human beings for a brief moment, and that moment would go down in history as a truly beautiful moment.
This film is relatively unknown (based off of what I have heard), which should not be the case. It contains some truly beautiful cinematography and a truly astonishing score. Along with these feats is the high quality acting brought forth as well (especially by the lesser known French man, Guillaume Canet). But above all else, this film has a true grip on what matters about the holidays, and that is the unity we share. What these men were able to do was as was said, truly moving. They made an example of the world by putting peace above the conflicts and agendas of their countries and put love first. It was a truly silent and peaceful Christmas night for the likes of mankind, and one that should be remembered by the likes of us in our own personal conflicts this holiday season.