Merry Christmas (2005)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama, Holiday Film  |   Release Date - Mar 3, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 116 min.  |   Countries - Belgium, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, Romania, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The unauthorized good will summit that took place on a French battlefield on Christmas Eve, 1914, is such an anomaly within modern military engagement, it's hard to believe a movie hasn't been made about it prior to Christian Carion's Joyeux Noel -- especially since filmmakers (or more to the point, studios) are always trying to capture the elusive "true spirit of Christmas" in their holiday films. In the age of the war on terror, where no tactic for crippling the enemy is considered too dirty, it's interesting to ponder the circumstances of Scottish, French and German troops laying down their arms for Christmas -- the fact that opposing officers could meet on the battlefield without coming under sniper fire, or that warring armies once actually worshiped the same God. Yet that's what happened here, as soldiers shared their various alcoholic beverages and native sweets, sang carols together, competed in friendly games of football, and sat together for Christmas mass. It should be no surprise that the superiors in each army thought this temporary truce amounted to treason, nor that the participants were confused and disheartened by the prospect of becoming enemies again. Joyeux Noel is told in English, French and German, and it does an excellent job putting us in the snow-covered boots of each side. It reminds us that war is fought between humans, not soulless killing machines, and that belief in the righteousness of contradictory positions doesn't make these humans incapable of compassion or unworthy of dignity. Overshadowing these moments of fraternization -- some of which are truly touching -- is our knowledge that World War I would push on for four more years, and that many of those present would likely be killed. Joyeux Noel makes us grateful they at least got to experience this last unexpected moment of transcendent peace.