Do You Hear What I Hear?
Last week was Easter and this week, I watch a Christmas movie four months too late (or is it eight months early?). Lucky me, Joyeux Noël is not the kind of movie that’s only good during the Christmas season. This one crafts a Christmas atmosphere all in its own.
Based on true accounts, Joyeux Noël takes place during World War I. On a particular war zone in Europe, three different nations are in combat. In one trench, you have the German troops led by Lieutenant Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl of Good Bye Lenin!). Across the no man’s land, Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) and the rest of their French opponents are in position. On a separate trench and backing the French, Anglican priest Palmer (Gary Lewis) and the Scots represent. The movie focuses on a noteworthy night – December 24, 1914. The soldiers, all brought up from Christian nations, are aware it is Christmas Eve and they are sadly not with their families. At first, each troop celebrates Christmas separately. However, when the Germans sing “Silent Night,” an extraordinary event occurs. The Scots, who recognize the familiar tune, start to accompany the music with their bagpipes. Slowly, curious heads pop out of the trenches. Could a Christmas miracle take place in the midst of a war?
Well, a miracle of truce does happen. In these types of movies, the portrayal of credibility is critical, even if miracle by nature is an unlikely scenario. Let’s face it – it is very easy for miracle to happen in the movies. For example, the film could simply have one brave soldier stand in the middle of the war and give a speech so powerful that the soldiers, in response, embrace each other and vow never to fight again. A miracle? For sure. Credible? Uh no.
In Joyeux Noël, I did not think the miracle starts out credibly. The idea that music can be an instigator of peace is wonderful, although the scene plays a tad schmaltzy for my taste. The more interesting part of the story is what happens during the truce. The soldiers begin to recognize their enemies as humans and their resulting ambivalence is truly affecting. For the first time in a war movie, I actually rooted for all sides. I wanted to prolong their truce for as long as possible. Joyeux Noël is an involving anti-war film. Why don’t you get some peace of the action?
Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Dany Boon, Gary Lewis, Daniel Brühl, Alex Ferns, and Steven Robertson
Rated R for some war violence and brief sexuality