Joyeux Noël

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Merry Christmas
MerryChristmasfilmPoster3.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Christian Carion
Produced by Christophe Rossignon
Benjamin Herrmann
Written by Christian Carion
Starring Benno Fürmann
Guillaume Canet
Daniel Brühl
Diane Kruger
Gary Lewis
Alex Ferns
Music by Philippe Rombi
Cinematography Walther van den Ende
Edited by Judith Rivière Kawa
Andrea Sedlácková
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
(U.S.A.)
Release dates
  • 9 November 2005 (2005-11-09)
Running time 116 minutes
Country France
Germany
United Kingdom
Belgium
Romania
Language English
French
German
Budget $22 million
Box office $17,709,155[1]

Joyeux Noël (English: Merry Christmas) is a 2005 French film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. It was written and directed by Christian Carion.[2] It was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards. The film was one of Ian Richardson's last appearances before his death on 9 February 2007.

Plot[edit]

The story centers mainly upon six characters: Gordon (a Lieutenant of the Royal Scots Fusiliers); Audebert (a French Lieutenant in the 26th Infantry and reluctant son of a general); Horstmayer (a Jewish German Lieutenant of the 93rd Infantry); Palmer (a Scottish priest working as a stretcher-bearer); and German tenor Nikolaus Sprink and his Danish lover, soprano, Anna Sørensen (two famous opera stars).

The film begins with scenes of schoolboys reciting patriotic speeches that both praise their countries and condemn their enemies. In Scotland, two young brothers, Jonathan and William, join up to fight, followed by their priest, Father Palmer. In Germany, Sprink is interrupted during a performance by a German officer announcing a reserve call up. Audebert looks at a photograph of his pregnant wife whom he has had to leave behind (in the occupied part of France, just in front of his trench), and prepares to exit into the trenches.

In Germany, Anna gets permission to perform for the soldiers and Sprink is allowed to accompany her. They spend a night together and then perform. Afterward, Sprink expresses bitterness at the comfort of the generals at their headquarters, and resolves to go back to the front to sing for the troops. Sprink is initially against Anna's decision to go with him, but he agrees shortly afterward.

The unofficial truce begins when the Scots begin to sing festive songs and songs from home, accompanied by bagpipes. Sprink and Sørensen arrive in the German front-line and Sprink sings for his comrades. As Sprink sings Silent Night he is accompanied by a piper in the Scottish front-line. Sprink responds to the piper and exits his trench with a small Christmas tree singing "Adeste Fideles". Following Sprink's lead the French, German, and Scottish officers meet in no-man's-land and agree on a cease-fire for the evening. The various soldiers meet and wish each other "Joyeux Noël","Frohe Weihnachten", and "Merry Christmas." They exchange chocolate, champagne, and photographs of loved ones. Horstmayer gives Audebert back his wallet, with a photograph of his wife inside, lost in the attack a few days prior, and connect over pre-war memories. Palmer and the Scots celebrate a brief Mass for the soldiers (in Latin as was the practice in the Catholic Church at that time) and the soldiers retire deeply moved. However, Jonathan remains totally unmoved by the events around him, choosing to grieve for his brother.

Father Palmer is to be sent back to his own parish and his Battalion disbanded as a mark of shame. Despite emphasising the humanity and goodwill of the truce, he is rebuked by the bishop, who then preaches an anti-German sermon to new recruits, in which he describes the Germans as subhuman and commands the recruits to kill every one of them. Father Palmer overhears the preaching, and removes his crucifix as he leaves.

Back in the trenches, the Scots are ordered by a furious major (who is angered by the truce) to shoot a German soldier who is entering no-man's-land and crossing towards French lines. Audebert, hearing the familiar alarm clock ringing outside, rushes out to see Ponchel. With his dying words, Ponchel reveals he had gained help from the German soldiers and visited his mother and had coffee with her. He also informs Audebert that he has a young son named Henri.

Audebert's punishment is being sent to Verdun, and receives a dressing down from his father, a general. In a culminating rant, young Audebert upbraids his father, expressing no remorse at the fraternization at the front, and also his disgust for the civilians or superiors who talk of sacrifice but know nothing of the struggle in the trenches. He also informs the general about his new grandson Henri; the general recommends they "both try and survive this war for him".

Horstmayer and his troops, who are confined in a train, are informed by the Crown Prince that they are to be shipped to the Eastern Front, without permission to see their families as they pass through Germany. He then stomps on Jörg's harmonica, and implies that Horstmayer, as a Jew, does not deserve his Iron Cross. As the train departs, the Germans start humming a Scottish carol they learned from the Scots, L'Hymne des Fraternisés'/ I'm Dreaming Of Home.

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Stephen Holden, film critic for The New York Times, liked the motion picture and called it a "visually sweeping film," and believed the drama's anti-war sentiments were high-minded. He wrote, "If the film's sentiments about the madness of war are impeccably high-minded, why then does Joyeux Noël ...feel as squishy and vague as a handsome greeting card declaring peace on earth? Maybe it's because the kind of wars being fought in the 21st century involve religious, ideological and economic differences that go much deeper and feel more resistant to resolution than the European territorial disputes and power struggles that precipitated World War I... Another reason is that the movie's cross-section of soldiers from France, Scotland and Germany are so scrupulously depicted as equal-opportunity peacemakers that they never come fully to life as individuals."[4]

Critic Roger Ebert also wrote about the sentimentality of the film, "Joyeux Noël has its share of bloodshed, especially in a deadly early charge, but the movie is about a respite from carnage, and it lacks the brutal details of films like Paths of Glory ...Its sentimentality is muted by the thought that this moment of peace actually did take place, among men who were punished for it, and who mostly died soon enough afterward. But on one Christmas, they were able to express what has been called, perhaps too optimistically, the brotherhood of man."[5]

The 2011 opera Silent Night is based on the screenplay of the movie.

Ratings[edit]

The film was originally rated R in the USA. However, after Ebert criticized the rating,[6] the MPAA officially changed the rating to PG-13.[2]

Soundtrack[edit]

Awards[edit]

Wins

Nominations

  • Academy Awards: Oscar, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, France; 2006.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe, Best Foreign Language Film, France; 2006.
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Film not in the English Language, Christophe Rossignon and Christian Carion; 2006.
  • César Awards, France: César, Best Costume Design (Meilleurs costumes), Alison Forbes-Meyler; Best Film (Meilleur film), Christian Carion; Best Music Written for a Film (Meilleure musique), Philippe Rombi; Best Production Design (Meilleurs décors), Jean-Michel Simonet; Best Supporting Actor (Meilleur second rôle masculin), Dany Boon; Best Writing - Original (Meilleur scénario original), Christian Carion; 2006.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Joyeux Noël (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Joyeux Noël (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Joyeux Noël". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  4. ^ Holden Stephen. The New York Times, film review, "A Christmas Truce Forged by Germans, French and Scots," March 3, 2006. Last accessed: February 9, 2011.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, March 10, 2006.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (2006-03-10). "Failure to Launch". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 11, 2009. ""Failure to Launch" is rated PG-13 and "Joyeux Noel," about enemy soldiers in World War I celebrating Christmas together, is rated R. I mention that as additional evidence that the MPAA ratings people have cut loose from sanity and are thrashing about at random." 

External links[edit]