Joyeux Noel (2005) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
155 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
An excellent movie!
kaplunv25 December 2005
I was sceptical before watching this film but by the end I had tears running down my cheeks.

By depicting the feelings and destinies of the soldiers, the film demonstrated the absurdity of war and how each soldier is more than a mere cannon target. It is a commentary on the utter stupidity of politics governing war events from behind curtains while not actually experiencing the real war. By depicting a unique event in European war history that occurred on Christmas day 1914 it shows viewers that Europeans can be as one even as "enemies".

About ten years ago I watched Paul McCartney's video "Pipes of Peace" and thought that what it depicted was completely fictitious--nothing more than pacifists' dreams. I have now learned that it was true.
79 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Power of Song as a Gateway of Understanding
gradyharp16 November 2006
Writer/director Christian Carion ('Une hirondelle a fait le printemps' aka 'The Girl from Paris') is unafraid to write and create cinematic tales that touch the heart as well as the mind. 'Joyeux Noël' is a story of war and its effects on soldiers that goes far beyond sentimentality (or the opposite emphasis on brutality as found in American films) and offers the viewer insights to the responses of young men's minds to the monster of war and how they cope.

Based on a true story, the film opens with the usual callous killing among three groups of soldiers - German, French, and Scottish - who face an oncoming Christmas Eve in the trenches, the realities of fighting have precluded their getting time to retreat for air. But a miracle happens: among the Germans is a famous opera tenor Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann) who has aligned with his fellow troops in the trenches, hoping he can bring some minor sense of Christmas and understanding to them. His soprano partner Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger) finds a way to be with him in the trenches on Christmas Eve, 1914. Meanwhile the disgruntle troops of all three sectors are planning meager festivities and a bit of relaxation even in the trenches as the bodies of the day's plunder lie in the snow of no man's land. We get to know the French Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) and his orderly Ponchel (Dany Boon), the German head of the regiment Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl), and the Scots - especially the priest/medic Palmer (Gary Lewis).

Christmas Eve comes and the voice of Sprink (in reality the tenor Rolando Villazón) sings 'Stille Nacht', rising out of the trenches to sing in the open of no man's land. Soon he is accompanied by the Scottish bagpipes and the 'chorus' of the Germans, the Scots and the French. They all emerge, share gifts of champagne and other libations, and agree to a cease-fire in honor of the holiday. It is in this magic moment that the true personalities of these warring men surface and each is seen as a vulnerable puppet of the WW I, exchanging addresses to meet after the war. Anna Sorenson has managed to enter the scene and during a communal mass led by Palmer she sings (the voice is Natalie Dessay) an Ave Maria (composed by the film's composer Philippe Rombi): the lovers have previously sung a duet version of Bach's 'Bist du bei mir'. For that moment in time the horrors of war melt and the camaraderie of the men glows and is carried into Christmas Day when all three groups of soldiers agree to bury their dead together. Of course the brutality and ignorance of war re-engages and the leaders of the three groups enter camp and threaten courts martial and punishment for the troops' lack of military discipline. The film ends in a manner that leaves the audience able to integrate the happenings of that Christmas Eve on the futures of these men.

The script is superb, the cast is uniformly excellent, the sets and cinematography are creatively moody, and the musical score by Philippe Rombi is one of the finest in years: the ending song 'I'm Dreaming of Home' deserves to become a standard. Would that everyone could see this film, a bit of global hope in the cloud of the destruction that shadows our world right now. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
54 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Footnote to the movie
Pideja31 December 2005
This very touching story about a true occurrence during the first Christmas of the Great War is very moving. Although the truce was not a generalized event, it did happen in quite a few areas all along the front line. It was the only moment of sanity in an otherwise gruesome experience in futility. Twenty years later, these same countries would be at it again.Karl Marx said that wars are awful events pitting ordinary people (proletariats) one against another for the benefit of the wealthy, the powerful, the aristocrats. This aspect is depicted very well in this movie. I would just like to add a footnote: Alfred Anderson, the last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914 died November 21th, 2005 at a nursing home in his native Scotland. He was 109 years old. Lest we forget.
151 out of 168 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Folly and the Ivy
Ali_John_Catterall16 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Zut alors! WW1 drama Joyeux Noel arrives under a big black wintry cloud, having been selected to represent France in the Best Foreign Language Film category over the much-hyped March of the Penguins at the 2006 Oscars. Insane, they said! It can't be done, they said! As co-producer Jean-Francois Camilleri fumed, Penguins (France's most successful export at the US box office) was "finally a foreign film that Americans love. It just proves the stupidity of French politics in this profession."

Well, sour raisons to yeaux and yeaux and yeaux: unwanted child Joyeux Noel is a joy from start to finish and should hold its head up high against those rambler birdies in dinner jackets.Mostly, we should give thanks and praises that Ron Howard didn't get his hands on it first.

Here's a more-or-less authentic account of that near-mythical Christmas in 1914, when Scottish, French and German soldiers proclaimed a temporary armistice, swapped champagne and cigarettes and played footie together ("looks like trouble for the Jerries", a Scottish soldier observes wryly, like a dug-in Des Lynam). From the sickening horror of No Man's Land, to the elegiac carolling of the bagpipes - and the almost off-hand revelation that Bruhl's German captain is Jewish - everything here is perfectly judged.

There's humour here too, albeit of the slightly mordant variety, and even the appearance of a local French farmyard cat, claimed by each side as their own, doesn't upset the potentially fatal juggling act.

In the midst of this, a living snow angel (Kruger) delivers an ice-melting burst of opera, the impact of which you can blame on a bad cold. The denouement, in which the troops are judged by the superior officers as having been guilty of "high treason" is underscored only by an excoriating sermon by Ian Richardson's Bishop who, far from applauding his priest's generosity of spirit (having delivered "the most important mass I ever gave"), reminds his chastened men that Christ came "not with Peace but with a sword"; that these Godless Germans should be cut down, every man, woman and child. Subtle it ain't, but it does act as a sobering reminder of the Church's culpability in both World Wars.

Ultimately, Joyeux Noel achieves the near-impossible, by keeping the treacle to a minimum while leaving one in no doubt about the finer aspects of humanity. Utterly magical.
63 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Destined to be a Christmas classic
gerrystakes17 November 2005
Thanks to a special showing as one of the events to mark the centenary of the Alliance Française in Canada's capital, I had the privilege of attending a North American premiere of this remarkable film just two days before today Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.) Both an appropriate theme and a cinematic Christmas gift come early. I think it may become my top film among several hundred seen this year, just as A Very Long Engagement - also set in the trenches of the First World War - captured my heart and critic's choice last December. Writer-director Christian Carion and all the actors do an amazing job in this multi-country Euro co-production. It should appeal not only to audiences across that continent but to film goers around the world. In addition to presenting a parable from real life relevant for any war-torn age, including our own I might add, Carion works wonders with front-line incidents great and small while drawing compelling individual character portraits from a top notch Scots, French and German cast, each speaking in their native language and accents. That goes for even relatively smaller roles: for example, that of the junior German officer at the front, Lieutenant Horstmayer (ironically a Jew who recalls a Paris honeymoon with his French-speaking wife), as played by the superb young actor Daniel Brühl (Goodbye Lenin, The Edukators). There is so much more that could be said about this remarkable and timely movie with a timeless message. Even had France not chosen Joyeux Nöel as its selection for the 2006 Oscar best foreign-language film category, I would herald it and rejoice in the advent of a new classic that is in another class altogether from the general run of "holiday movies". A story of harsh truths as well as transcendent art, it finds humanity and hope in the midst of battlefield horrors. Seasonal glad tidings indeed!
143 out of 165 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Christmas won't be Christmas...
jane-hare27 June 2006
I saw this film the day before Christmas Eve last year and I have to say that it was the highlight of my Christmas. No, I did not have a rubbish holiday - the film just made me realise what Christmas must be like for the people who do not enjoy the relative peace we take for granted.

I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about the film. And this from someone who usually avoids foreign language films like the plague because it annoys me when the words are out of time with the movement of the lips.

I thought that using actors from each of the countries involved in the conflict was a master-stroke and made it all so much more believable. I shed a tear at the end, though I could see why the men needed to be moved from the front having made friends with 'the enemy.' I know that this is going to be a must see film for me every Christmas and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the DVD.
15 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Powerful and must see
gcnicho18 December 2005
A truly powerful and must see film about the futility of war.

It depicts that whatever those in power would have us believe there are more similarities between various nationalities than differences.

Wonderful performances by many little known actors.

First class cinematography and other production values.

Illustrates that there can be no war if if if you have no enemy. It is impossible to kill a man with whom you have shared drinks and stories and grown to like

Wonderful music and singing as those who have suffered and fought each other in the trenches slowly gather to mark Christmas Eve by drinking and talking with each other, swapping addresses, singing Christmas carols common to all three nations (Germany, France and Scotland), burying frozen corpses and playing soccer together.

Not perfectly historically accurate but very close to an actual incident, A vivid illustration of the foolishness of war. While some have laid the blame at the feet it is clear that the primary blame lays with those who order others to go to war while safely enjoying the better of things far from the trenches
58 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This is a wonderful, moving film showing humankind at its best
adeej2 January 2006
Wow! Joyeux Noel was a great movie. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this film but found it to be moving, heartwarming and a wonderful cinematic experience.

The fact that the story is based on real events that happened shows that their is some good in humans across the world. In this story, all sides are respected as humans and the soldiers come to understand that under God, we are all one.

Please, even if you don't normally go to foreign language films or war movies, go to this film. The war scenes are not prolific. You will come out changed and smiling from the inside out!
62 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Why did it take 90 years to put this on the silver screen?
t-schwarz25 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
About three years ago, I read about this story in a magazine. I instantly contacted a friend who is a film producer and told him about what I thought would have to be a wonderful movie. Although he told me that some others were already planning to do this, my hunch was right. Great story, great film, although I agree that both Führmann and Krüger aren't exactly doing a good job when they are dubbing the touching soprano's and tenor's voices. I wouldn't actually say that she's bad, but for a woman confronted at the same time with the horrors of the trenches and the human spirit's ability to overcome them, while trying to save her lover from this place, her performance is not, well, particularly emotional.

Bizarrely, even for Germany, the version released to cinemas across the country this week is almost entirely dubbed in German. This, I might say, adds some strange kind of comedy when ordinary soldiers from the trenches act like they don't understand the other while both speaking perfect German. On the other hand, it makes the German lieutenant, who actually speaks both English and French look overly ridiculous when he tries to utter "chouette".

There are so many memorable moments in this film it is hard to come up with them all, even immediately after leaving the theatre. But I particularly loved the opening scene in which three little boys, in Germany, France, and Britain respectively, are standing in front of a blackboard and are repeating the jingoist everyday rhetoric of the day, and the scene in which the church leader is preaching to new Scottish troops that they are on a crusade against evil, right after he "fired" the field priest for performing the Christmas mass with the soldiers who fraternised with each other.

In any other context, I would have said this is over the top, too open a reference to the religiously influenced jingoist rhetoric of certain world leaders of this day - but I'm pretty sure it's an accurate reflection of the indoctrination of 1914-1945. And that's even more scary.
32 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a new xmas classic
damienmuldoon22 December 2005
I have always had an interest in WW1 and when I discovered that a film about that conflict was being released, I knew I'd have to see it as soon as possible. This is a very special movie. Telling the story of the extraordinary Christmas truce between waring soldiers in the trenches at Christmas 1914, it demonstrates just how ludicrous war really is and how the human spirit can overcome blind hatred. Performances, cinematography and direction don't really matter in this film. Though all these elements are of a high quality. What's important about this film is its message. It is a "feel good movie" with a difference. The difference is that the plot is based on a true event.

It is sure to become a fixture on Christmas T.V. listings over the coming years. But go and see it now. Particularly if, like me, your beginning to get cynical about this time of the year.
74 out of 90 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Joyeux Noël - Marry Christmas
jeanettstykket16 December 2005
As I invited a friend with me to watch this movie, I had very low expectations. I usually don't like French movies, and I don't like war movies. At the beginning of Joyeux Noël, the director of the film said that it was based on a true story and that he wished that if we liked the movie, that we would tell everyone about it and recommend it. And so I will! One can't usually laugh of a war movie, but I did. It was filled with much humor, and I found it very amusing! The cat, the music, the people -it was all very incredible, and I will give you my word that I will buy this movie on DVD -it's already on my wish list!!! I recommend everyone to take a look at this significant movie! -Jeanett Stykket, Oslo, Norway
104 out of 134 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
mixedbeanz12 December 2005
Last night I went to special screening of Joyeux Noël ahead of it's release on 22nd of December.

Wow, what an amazing movie. As a rule I generally tend to blacklist war movies but this so different.

This is in no way about the glorification of war but instead tells a tale of a group of human beings that see past their differences for one night.

Apparently all based on true events known as the The Christmas Truce of 1914.

I highly recommend this movie to any and all.
89 out of 115 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Carols in the trenches
jotix1001 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Joyeux Noel" integrates a large European cast as the film explores the Christmas Eve truce of 1914, something that has been documented in other films about WWI. Where writer/director Christian Carion succeeds is in the way he presents the material for the screen.

We are taken to the trenches, where German, French, and Scottish troops are seen fighting a fierce battle in which the Germans are showing a superior advantage from their side. During the exchange many soldiers die and are left in the snow covered field as the troops regroup to consider what kind of action to take.

In the spirit of the Christmas holidays the men from each faction are given extra rations, ornaments, and even trees and liquor from each of their countries to celebrate the occasion. It's a wonder to see the German side awash with small trees that are lit and raised over the edge of their trenches. Suddenly, there is the sound of music everywhere and the commanders of each faction come together to declare a cease fire so the men can celebrate Christmas Eve.

It's at this point that the main point of the film is made, as the terrible war seems to recede and all the men come together to rejoice, more like friends, than enemies. It's a lovely moment in which peace on earth seems to be achievable.

As all this is happening, Anna Sorenson, a talented singer, comes to the German side to be reunited with her tenor husband, Nikolaus Sprink. They are instrumental for bringing more joy to the men by joining their wonderful voices to sing traditional songs and carols.

Among the cast, Diane Kruger, Bruno Furmann, Guillaume Canet, Daniel Bruhl, Bernard LeCoq, Ian Richardson, Alex Ferns, and other actors from many countries come together to celebrate and forget the insanity and death that surrounds them.

Christian Carion is to be congratulated for bringing this story to the screen as it shows human nature at its best.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Eventually, one of the best Christmas classic that we have...
psi_rover1 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility".

Joyeux Noel (aka Merry Christmas), a heartwarming film set in the World War 1 trenches is a € 19M joint production of France, Germany and the UK with star studded talented cast of Diane Krüger, Daniel Brühl, Brenno Fürmann, Guillame Canet, Garry Lewis and Danny Boon.

Merry Christmas is a very poignant film surrounded by beautiful Christmas carols and well written storyline. It is like the heartbreaking moments of Saving Private Ryan plus the uplifting energy of Love Actually combined together in a single package.

Christmas Eve of 1914, the English, French and Germans celebrated the Christmas Eve together in the war trenches singing, drinking and sharing their pictures from home. The film's opening credit is pretty impressive; it begins with children of different nationalities talking about their understanding of war. Things like why they should get rid of one another to ease the danger and make this world a better place to live in, but the question is, do we really have defined or particular enemies? In Merry Christmas, unbelievable but true, they have extended the fraternization for three more days to bury the victims of war in both sides. I found a very moving scene in the film where the officials are talking about Christmas, the day when Christ was born is the very same day when they are burying their comrades. In the end of the film, I have my teary eyes when they are all going back to war and forget about their so called "crime of fraternization" and then they sang the song "I'm Dreaming of Home". History has kept this truth for years because on that time, they believed that it is a crime of disobedience and disloyalty for their countries. But I guess it is damn better to be loyal to the human race in general right? In one of the last scenes, the English priest is telling the soldiers that the World War I is a crusade, a battle between good and evil, the English and French being the savior and the Germans are the evil ones. Well, I know it is pretty controversial but I never believe in the literal meaning of the world 'Crusade', the crusade that they are talking about that there are definite groups of people that would assume the word good and bad is just absurd.

Looking at Joyeux Noel, the most outstanding aspect of the film is probably the strong direction from Christian Carion, he is a very emotional director who can effectively show human reaction to the absurdity and hostility of war. The cast is also very powerful not only because of their acting skills (we know that already) but it features box office hit makers such as Diane Kruger. But the best performances from the movie came from Daniel Bruhl (not because I'm a fan), Guillame Canet (France' answer to Tom Cruise) and Danny Boon, the one who played the role of the priest. The film score is fantastic, it features old recognizable Christmas carols and I just love the song I'm Dreaming of Home, it is so touching and nostalgic. This movie is definitely one of the best five movies of 2005.

Last night, there are just three people watching the last full show. But despite of this, I realized one thing, if it's always Christmas everyday, may be those millions of people did not loose their lives in the series of senseless wars
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pacifism, Religious, Political, and Human drama
eoconnel-15 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of the most moving and powerful films I have ever seen. It speaks to the pointlessness of war without being at all typical to our American views of pacifism. It is beautiful and magnificent, with some incredible performances, especially by Daniel Bruhl, Guillaume Canet, and Gary Lewis. Set on Christmas Eve in 1914, during World War I, soldiers from France, Scotland, and Germany sing Christmas carols together, share champagne and chocolate, and say mass before returning each other's dead the next day. The difficulty comes when their commanding officers order them to shoot shortly after this incident and none will, having looked their enemies in the face, exchanged addresses, and learned stories from their enemies' lives. War becomes a shared human experience resulting in a bond that cannot be explained to church officials, country leaders, or even each other. This film is an experience that leaves you reeling and thinking about those whom we (Americans) slaughter abroad, how they all have faces, stories, and purposes. You will leave the theater and not know quite what to do with yourself! Everyone should see this film once; no other film could ever live up to the humanly universal experience that this film depicts.
13 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The most moving movie ever
marcdauphin29 April 2007
Never have I been moved so much by a movie. I first saw it in France, with my wife, in December 2005, after having spent the week in Ypres and its surrounding battlefields. As a historian, I am aware of the extremely localized setting of the 1914 Christmas truce and thus, of its geographical (un)importance. I am also aware of the highly stylized and symbolic rendering in the movie, of the real events of 1914. But as a soldier, I cannot help thinking "My God, what if the truce had spread all along the line until all soldiers refused to wage this (in retrospective) basically useless war?" Simply hearing "Bist Du bei Mir" will forever bring tears to my eyes.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Christmas' Miracle and Insanities of War
claudio_carvalho28 June 2008
On the Christmas Eve of 1914, in the Western Front in France in World War I, the Scottish, the German and the French troops have a moment of truce and share moments of peace and friendship. When the soprano Anna Sorensen (Diane Krüger) succeeds in convincing the Prussian Prince to join her tenor husband Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann) to sing for the German high command, Sprink brings her to the front to sing for his comrades in the trench. The Scottish Lieutenant Gordon (Alex Ferns) and the French Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) have an informal and unauthorized meeting with the German Lieutenant Horstmayer (Daniel Brühl) and negotiate a truce for that night, and the priest Palmer (Gary Lewis) celebrates a mass for the soldiers. When their superiors become aware of the event, they have to pay for the consequence of their armistice.

"Joyeux Noël" is a dramatization with fictional characters and situations of a true event of a Christmas' miracle and insanities of war. The story is extremely beautiful and recalls one of those masterpieces of Frank Capra, with a magnificent anti-war message, and I have included this wonderful and remarkable movie in my list of favorites ever. This is the first film that I see from director and writer Christian Carion, and I was really impressed with this classy and very well acted production. The wonderful Diane Krüger deserved a nomination to the Oscar for her brilliant top-notch performance in the role of Anna Sorensen; and she is perfectly dubbed by the French soprano Natalie Dessay and the soundtrack is awesome. There is a joke, I do not know whether intentional or not, when Horstmayer tells Audebert that he is not married with a German wife (in 2005, Canet was married with the German Diane Krüger). My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Feliz Natal" ("Happy Christmas")
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Movie about the foolishness of war, how religion causes wars and how there is really no division between church and state
nnm-14 December 2005
This is an incredibly well acted and executed film. It is thought provoking about the obvious issues of war and peace and how the enemy looks like us.

The film is set on Christmas Eve at the beginning of World War I. The film opens with showing the naiveté of youth as the word of war being declared spreads through the town. The local parish priest follows his young parishioners into the battle field. This really is an ensemble piece with many fine and talented actors. It has the added bonus of incredible music.

It also has important themes about the role of religion in the world. How good will try to raise it's head in even the most dire of times and then evil shoots it down.

While I think that this film is a must see, I fear that the negative depiction of organized religion will keep this movie from the praise it so richly deserves.
55 out of 86 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
amarsac812 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Merry Christmas is a French War movie written and directed by Christian Carion in 2005. It deal with the Christmas Truce of the First World War in December 1914 between the French, Scottish and German soldiers. Christian Carion directed other movies such as Monsieur Député in 1999,and L'Affaire Fareweel in 2009.

This movie was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards. It was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

The actors contributed to the success of the movie : Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Diane Kruger, Gary Lewis, Alex Ferns, Danny Boon.

But if someone thinks it's thanks to them, I find the characters flat, There is a lack of complexity in them even if throughout the story the History is showing. Despite that I was overwhelmed by this movie.

The main plot of the movie : « One Chirstmas Day of the officers have coffee together and decide to « bury their dead on the day Christ was born ». Later, the soldiers play a football match. » The scene when soldiers are able to fraternize shows the fact that soldiers are not just « machine to kill ». This scene permits to highlight the humanity of soldiers because most of the time in war movies we forget the fact that they have a heart. During this Truce, the soldiers are on an equal footing whatever their nationality, they all have, during the Christmas, memories about their family, and faith.

Christian Carion encountered difficulties to find a ground of some hectares because of the French Army. He found a French military training ground but the commandant of the base said 'no' ! Moreover he participate in the hostility of militarist because he refused to show archives of the army which prove the existence of brotherhood during the war. But he finally found a ground in Romania. Despite that, Christian Carion is « armed » as far as the scenario is colored, fed by small real facts (the cat which passed from one camp to the other...) The acting is perfectly managed with sometimes elegance...

Merry Christmas sound like a « anti-war » movie if I could say so, even if it's a war film because the film celebrate Man capacity for empathy and forgiveness.


I found spectacular the fact that was able to mix fraternization and humanity with the atrocity because we never lose the horror of war even if it's Christmas Truce. Despite the war, the language, despite cultures, men under their statute of soldiers will meet and appraise during some hours because the military authorities will stop.

It's an irreproachable realism, this movie gives us a parenthesis of love and peace which raises several questions to the spectator, like the legitimacy of war. Merry Christmas, a lesson of humanity.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If "Joyeux Noel" Is Not A Classic Yet, It Will Be.
D_Burke25 December 2012
Among the many films that take place during Christmas, most succeed in entertaining. Some give a credible message of hope with which audiences genuinely identify.

However, only two movies of which I know succeed in moving audiences and rekindling their hope in the virtues of which mankind is capable: "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946), and this movie.

"Joyeux Noel" is not just a Christmas movie. I imagine anyone who sees this film will make an emotional connection to it regardless of their race, color, or creed.

Based on a true story, the film chronicles the start of what was then known as the Great War, but what we know today as World War I. It's hard to believe when you read about WWI in a text book, but at the time, it was the bloodiest war in (then) recent memory.

It's also easy to forget how senseless the war actually was from the very beginning. However, this film succeeds in emphasizing the inhumanity of war through a brilliant beginning montage of children from England, France, and Germany reciting actual text from each nation's respective official war declarations.

Putting children in these parts was a smart move, because your attention wouldn't perk up if an adult was saying these lines. When children are seriously discussing war in a classroom, and not on the playground, you know something's amiss. Adding to the cold authenticity, the children speak in their own languages.

"Joyeux Noel" was filmed and financed in France, Germany, Romania, and Scotland. It's important to note this fact because if it got near Hollywood, EVERYONE in it would be speaking English, a move that regularly damages the credibility of many American films that take place overseas.

The film continues showing civilians from France, Germany, and Scotland right when war breaks out in 1914. One young Scottish man is excited to enlist, stating that it is the "start of (his) life". His local priest, Father Palmer (Gary Lewis), is not so sure.

You are also introduced to two famous German opera singers who are also lovers, Anna Sorenson (Diane Kruger) and Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Furmann), whose voices are heaven sent. Neither singer is required to enlist in the Great War, but they are both sent to the German front lines to entertain the troops on Christmas Eve.

After a few more introductions, we see the Western Front of the war in France, with French, German, and Scottish soldiers engaging in combat that is far from romantic. You see the trenches, not so much of the actual combat, but you don't have to guess how ugly the war actually was.

Even worse, these soldiers are fighting on Christmas Eve, when many of them looked forward to returning home to their families. Eventually, what begins as Anna and Nikolaus singing for the German soldiers results in the lieutenants of each platoon agreeing to a Christmas Day ceasefire. However, thanks to these opera singers, what further evolves becomes something more uplifting and moving than just a day off.

In 1914, the Great War was far from over. To those fighting in it, there seemed to be no end in sight. However, on that Christmas Eve, as this film so brilliantly elaborates, the battle grounds became an actual common ground for all the troops. Seeing that gradual metamorphosis of the land and the soldiers is truly breathtaking.

From this point of the movie on, you may become an opera fan if you weren't one before seeing this film. You will look at the World War I German army in a far better way if you're an American or British person. World War II may be a different story, but go along with me here.

Finally, you may never listen to "Adeste Fideles" (the Latin version of "O Come All Ye Faithful") the same way again. It's even more astounding how great holiday songs become better through the darkest of times, and that is probably the point of the entire movie.

Just like "It's A Wonderful Life", "Joyeux Noel" details a bleak time in history, and shows how the human spirit of generosity can make a world of difference through even the darkest times. The comparisons to the 1946 classic don't stop there.

"Joyeux Noel" has a story line that gradually builds to a grand conclusion, and the sum of the previous events is not equal to its parts. Like "It's A Wonderful Life", the thrill is seeing how all the circumstances come together to create that conclusion. It may be complicated to detail to friends, but once you see the movie, you realize it's more profound than just cocktail party chatter.

While these two movies differ greatly in their plots, they also have a few other things in common. "Joyeux Noel", with a budget of $22,000,000, made less than that worldwide, thereby making it a flop. It also was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005, but lost.

However, just like "It's A Wonderful Life", it will be considered a classic soon. It may not be next year, but it could be 10 years from now, or even 20. It's not just an entertaining film, but a truly great and important film.

There are no magic tricks in this film to remind the characters about the true meaning of the holiday season, and for good reason. Kindness and charity are things of which all humans are capable even in terrible times. "Joyeux Noel" gets that idea. I only hope that others who see this remarkable cinematic achievement will take away that message, and still come back to the movie year after year.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The miracle continued
harry_tk_yung25 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The trailer gave me the impression that the events on Christmas Eve is the grand finale of the movie so when I saw that scene coming just about an hour into the movie, I was a little surprised, happily so. The miracle continued into Christmas day, and beyond.

But I must back up a little and plead ignorance. The miraculous events that took place on Christmas Eve in 1914 may not be as widely known to the world as some might think. This was the European arena of the first "World War", which was in fact essentially a European war, a war that means far less than WWII to the world outside Europe, even English speaking North America and Australia. And after all, it's over 90 years ago.

The story is unquestionably worth telling and judging from the unadorned style of the storytelling, it would seem that it was told quite truthfully. The sweeping panoramic aerial shot and grandiose music at the start conjures up sort of a Lord of the Rings feeling, but it gets down to earth soon, introducing the key characters and bringing the audience to the battlefield.

While the events were the best manifestation of the Christmas spirit, there is also a embedded love of music which, strangely, brought to my mind the "banjo duet" scene in "Deliverence". Far-fetched as it may sound, there are similarities in having music as the bridge that breaks the ice of communication.

Happening over 90 years ago, this is a miracle founded on a common Christianity heritage, which traverse national and language barriers. The movie makers did make a small point that it was beyond Christianity, by showing how a Jewish German soldier was moved. It is also realistic that the miracle did not touch every single person - for the Scottish soldier, the loss of a beloved brother was just too great.

But it was heart-warming that the miracle did not stop at the magical Christmas Eve, but continued on into the glaring reality of the bright Christmas Day, and beyond, in a relatively simpler world at the turn of the last century. Today, a miracle of this magnitude would require a lot more. It would be a huge challenge to just write a fictional script, let alone find a true story. I am hoping that Steven Spielberg will take up this challenge.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ceasefire - Merry Christmas
sasung29 August 2010
Wow! If this is really a true story,then HATS OFF to those soldiers and Lieutenant's. This movie is the perfect example of Humanity.

War is Business and Business is Booming. This kind of movie should be taken in all the languages(All over the world).

I don't know what to add,after reading all the comments. But,i strongly recommend to everyone to watch this movie - This movie will definitely make you think,laugh and cry.

This movie should be in Top #250. At least,I'll recommend this movie to all my friends.

Don't fail to see a new Xmas classic :)
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The French really know how to make a movie about war.
paul7kangas24 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Carion's movie Joyuex Noel has placed a flower of history, into the barrel of the gun of war. I cried, I laughed. It was gripping. Maybe because I am a Vet. Joyeux got a standing ovation in the theater I saw it in. Common soldiers learned to see past their flags of war, & recognize themselves in the face of their enemies. Their realized war is insane, childish, silly and not for adults. It is no accident this movie came out of France. That whole society is 100% against the US Pentagon war machine pirates bloody attack on Iraq. The punch line in the movie Joyuex, that most movie critics seem to miss, is that all the mutineers, Scottish, French & German, were them executed by their own officers as soon as they started following orders again. As when all the German soldiers were locked in box cars & shipped to another front line, to be forced into another battle, until they were all killed. This, to try to silence the knowledge of this beautiful Xmas mutiny, this great leap forward for the whole human race on Xmas day. To prevent the press from learning about how the war, WWI, ended before it had even begun. Look at he million of people who died in WWI, after this first battle. What would have happened if these 3,000 now humanize solders had quite fighting & gone back home & talked about how they stopped the war!. Or to write books about the love they experienced on that day? They had the guns. They could have just started marching back home. I want to know more about this battle. Did any of them survive? Did any of them go on to write books? Remember, this was the initial battle in WWI & it stopped the war! This shows the power of soldiers to control war. What if they had refused to follow orders, imprisoned the commanding officers, as they came from HQ, to restart the war, & stayed in their fox holes! They could have formed, hell, they did form an army for peace, for a week. If they could have just held their fire for a month, they could have stopped WWI before it went any further. The story could have gotten back to their villages. And the press. If they had just held out for a month, taken their officers prisoners. Then their own governments would have had to have sent in more troops, their own cousins, to attack their own troops. The new troops would never have fired on their own kind. WWI would have ended, before it ever began. That is the lesson of this fabulous movie. Now, how can we reach the teenage boys with this movie?

This French cinema director Christian Carion deserves a Nobel Prize for Peace for his excellent & exciting movie. Peace is an economic system. Joyeux Noel exposes how common soldiers can bring peace, even in the middle of a war. Using songs. I participated in a Navy mutiny in 1961, during the US invasion of Cuba. I was given a year of punishment duty for refusing to help invade Cuba. So I was really happy to see another movie on how soldiers can say No! to their officers, in a musical way & actually stopped a war. Our mutiny in 1961 did not stop the Bay of Pigs, but because we 30 sailors at Patuxant River said NO! to our officers, as did hundreds more in other military bases, President Kennedy, knew he had the support of the majority of the common soldier & sailors in the military. So JFK stopped the invasion of Cuba. Because JFK had spine, Bush & the CIA then ambushed JFK in Dallas, as punishment for JFK?s refusing to attack Cuba. President Kenndy died a hero, for participating in our mutiny. God bless JFK. My life story is based on my experiences. True events. I took the time to speak up against an illegal attack on Cuba. While I was in the Navy. Most people can have an exciting life too, if they will just turn off the TV, get out of their apartment, & go fight the war machine. Even by making another great film like Joyeux. There are still great battles to be won, & it can be fun, based on true events. You will survive & have fun, in the long run.

We Vets for Peace are now doing marches in all 50 state capitals, July 4th, 2006, to bring the US troops back home before Christmas 2006. Please join us: 415.
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Merry Christmas is wonderful, yet disposable entertainment...
oggsmoggs2 December 2005
On Christmas eve in the First World War, an unexpected truce was agreed upon by the warring French, Germans, and the Scotsman contingent of the British army. The truce began when ex-tenor turned German private Sprink (Benno Furmann) gave an apt rendition of "Silent Night" which the Scotsmen quickly offered to accompany with their bagpipes. Feeling the Christmas spirit despite their hometown being invaded by the Germans, the French agreed to celebrate Christmas eve with their enemies. Undeniably schmaltzy and melodramatic, Merry Christmas seems to be doomed to be in the company of other schmaltzy films like Pay it Forward or Benigni's Life is Beautiful. However, one has to look beyond the evident schmaltziness and keep one's cynicism at an all-time low to truly enjoy the film, which I thought was decently made and truly touching. After all, one cannot fault writer-director Christian Carion as the film was based on recorded events that truly happened during World War I. I think Carion tried his best to make the film as grounded and as realistic as possible although sometimes his screenplay gets a bit too oratorical and his direction gets a bit too overhanded with his overuse of the musical score. Carion promptly neutralizes the fuzzy feelings that are generated by warring men playing football and poker on Christmas Day by immediately portraying the sad repercussions of the men's fraternizing with their enemies. I thought that was a very welcome addition to bring back the audience from its suspension of disbelief to a more realistic ground that despite the innate humanity in everyone's heart, politics and the irrationalities of war still determine the fates of these men. There are also some technical aspects that I feel could've been polished a bit more. The lipsynching of the songs is quite obvious and very distracting especially since its hard to believe that Diane Kruger can belt out those high and strong note with her anorexic frame. Merry Christmas is wonderful, yet disposable entertainment. It is France's submission to the Oscars and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a nod as it possesses almost everything that the Oscars want - a war film, with themes of peace and humanity, and of course the resulting emotion of fuzziness and pride for one's humanity. ***1/2/*****
22 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A beautiful film overall!
Sylviastel18 December 2013
Joyeux Noel or Merry Christmas should be shown every year on television. It is beautiful movie about the true meaning of Christmas. The director does a brilliant job in depicting three military units like the Germans, French, and the Scottish who are fighting the first Christmas away from their loved ones and facing an invisible enemy. While they stop and have informal and unauthorized ceasefire on Christmas Eve. The soldiers whether German, Scottish, or French begin a platonic fraternization of brotherhood. It's nice to see a film about war that isn't. As they become friends, they share good times even for a brief time. Their leaders will face the consequences of resisting to continue battling in no mans land. Yet there are beautiful moments like when they start singing together and playing music. It's still a great film and should be viewed around the holiday season.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed