Friday, December 24, 2010

Joyeux Noel on Christmas Eve

I heard about this movie on the TRON episode of the Matineecast.  Hatter and Tom Clift couldn't have recommended it more highly (okay, I think it was number 2 or 3 on their lists, so I guess they could).  Joyeux Noel has its Christmas pedigree in the title, and for added measure sneaks in a beautiful anti-war sentiment while set in WWI.  The true story of the Christmas truce along the front lines of WWI, it's told from the perspective of the Scottish, French and German soldiers all entrenched in a small area on opposite sides (well, the French and Scots were on the same side).  On the morning of Christmas Eve, the French attempt to take the German trench and get blasted back to their own trench with heavy losses.  One of the Scotsmen sees his brother killed and has to leave him in "no man's land" between the trenches and is breaks something inside him.  However, over on the German side, a tenacious and famous Opera singer (Diane Kruger) has moved mountains to get her tenor boyfriend, Sprink, away from the front on Christmas eve.  They sing for the Crown Prince, but Sprink decides he should be back with his comrades and brings her with him and they sing.  Since they're only about 100m apart, the Scots hear him and play along with their bagpipes.  Now our crazy opera singer gets out of his trench and attempts to bring the enemy a Christmas tree.  This brings all the commanders out of their trenches and with a lot of discomfort, they agree to a cease-fire for Christmas Eve.  You can see that they know it's not a good idea (technically consorting with the enemy is treason), but it's Christmas, and they're all pretty tired of the terrible conditions and strain of waiting to be killed.
I won't explain the rest of the plot, but suffice it to say, the movie does show you very clearly the costs of war at the front and its effect on the soldiers.  When soldiers do what they can to maintain their ties to home and their humanity (one guy always sets his alarm clock for 10am so he won't forget that his mom is having coffee just then without him).  A beautiful story with some pretty terrific acting and beautiful scenes (how they make trenches look beautiful is beyond me - it's an Oscar nominated French film, so that might have something to do with it).  If you're looking for non-comedic holiday fare, definitely give this a try.  4.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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