Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

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One of the most beautiful movies it has been my pleasure to watch in a very long time. World War I was a senseless bloodbath, an exercise in futility that killed millions and only succeeded in delineating the sides for World War II. But in the midst of the horror of the trenches something amazing happened on Christmas Eve, 1914. I’ve heard versions of the Christmas Truce story many times, but this gorgeous movie puts names and faces to it, perfectly balanced with stories from both sides. Such divine music, amazing acting and incredibly detailed costumes and sets!  Diane Kruger delivers a gut-wrenching performance, and her paramour, Benno Fürmann, will bring tears to your eyes with his exceptional tenor voice (OK, his singing voice is provided by Rolando Villazón, but you get my point).  This is the sort of thing that renews your faith in humanity, to know there is still decency in the world. It’s tragic, funny, heartbreaking and deeply moving, and ultimately triumphant, like soothing balm for the soul. Of course, once word of the unofficial cease-fire got out, the military command on both sides nearly died of apoplexy. How do you go back to shooting at the “enemy” when you know all the soldier’s names in the opposite trench? They’d exchanged addresses, hoping to meet up after the war, showed pictures of wives, girlfriends and children, and even took letters to mail that would otherwise never have gotten through.  Eventually the war resumed, but for a brief shining moment a spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect trumped the guns, giving all of us a vision of what true peace could be. I reveled in the quiet rebellion of the unrepentant participants, even as they were scolded for their “lapse in judgement”. The second world war seems to get all the attention with lots of great movies made about it, with the notable exception of Warhorse, and I’m glad this story (based on real events) has a chance to reach a broader audience. I loved every second of this film and decided to buy it on the spot. Worth watching any time of year, as I thoroughly enjoyed it in the middle of July. – BETHANY

For all the obscure yet interesting facts about this movie, visit IMDB at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424205/

Lieutenant Camille René Audebert (Guillaume Canet) getting a haircut from his batman, Ponchel (Dany Boon).  Note the sign pointing the way to the English trenches.

            Anna Sørensen (Diane Kruger) and Private Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann) singing at a concert for the German top brass.

It is very unwise to tangle with the “ladies from hell”, as the Scots were nicknamed in World War I.

The first overture of peace.

Father Palmer (Gary Lewis) plays some mean bagpipes!

      The meeting in No Man’s Land.

Tea Parties?

         Scottish Lt. Gordon (Alex Ferns) French Lt. Audebert and German Lt. Horstmayer  (Daniel Brühl).

Yikes!  Glad none of us were over there!

Pictures of the real thing (found at themaltesegeek.wordpress.com).

Photos courtesy of Nord-Ouest Productions, Senator Film Produktion, The Bureau,  Artémis Productions, Media Pro Pictures, TF1 Films Production, es Productions de la Guéville, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Sat.1, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), Eurimages, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, C.R.R.A.V., Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA), Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Soficinéma, Cofimage 16, Uni Etoile 2, Sogécinéma 3, Groupe Un, SCOPE Invest, Nippon Herald Films, Cinéart, Films Distribution and Cofinova 1.  (Whew, that’s a long list!)

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