Joyeux Noel (2005) * Top Picks *
Starring: Diane Kruger (National Treasure; Wicker Park), Benno Furmann (Anatomy; The Order)
Directed By: Christian Carion
Overview: On Christmas Eve, on the front lines during the first winter of the Great War, German, Scottish and French soldiers cease fire from hostilities. During this time they also sing, meet and exchange photos. Based on the true events of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Acting: Looking at the film careers of the actors named above, you might be predisposed to thinking this is low-grade casting, but the people of this film simply finally found something worthy of their talent. This makes you wonder what could have happened to many actors had they simply been given half a chance of being in a truly important film. With a director beginning to make a name for himself and actors who still have something to prove, this is a well-polished, perfectly directed work.
Cinematography: Rather than spending budget money on death, explosions and horror (not to knock Saving Private Ryan), we look at high-society juxtaposed with a no-man's land covered in the lost. We see, up close, the faces of the people behind the war, we are immersed in the era, the uniforms and the supplies in the trenches; realistic without being graphic.
Script: "If we die tomorrow, it will be even more absurd than yesterday!"
The dialogue, often humorous and usually escapist is not an exchange of lofty ideals, or a dissertation on loyalty. The telling of this tale is forever human, common, down to earth, with duty and honour as a thing not ignored, but left by the wayside, just for a moment. The characters are rich and detailed not because we're told how they are, but because they're so well written and acted that we knew them all along.
Plot: Rather than going on about the misery of war, we are given several moments of comedic respite. This makes the serious scenes ever more poignant and shows what life for these men could be, if only they returned to their still-reparable existences. A perfect story of humanity untainted and reaching out across seas of futility, cogs in the Great Wheel, clinging to a short span of joy and brotherhood. Rather than ending the film with the expected return to war, we focus instead on a prologue of the most human of our leaders, a conclusion so real that the sting of war will run deep long after.
Mood: The biggest problem I had with this film could have been solved with taking out the overdubbing for the songs. It's easy to lip synch when you're doing Britney Spears, but this is opera. When a perfect work of art like this is ruined by a constant awareness that the singers aren't actually singing, it's rather painful. They should have recorded it live. That way, even if it wasn't perfect, it would be perfectly honest, making it even better.
"Wait! Wait a minute isn't that the enemy pointing guns at us?!" "No actually those are their candles..."
Overall Rating: 90% (Best Time of the Year)
Aftertaste: The saddest thing about this movie is that it is yet another experience in film that will only serve to jade my growing hatred for mainstream Hollywood-produced garbage, as well as being one more stepping stone on my hardening emotions as I approach middle age. This film is so good that next time, it will be even harder to make me feel the way this film did. I recommend this to anyone who wants to feel, however with the risk that this may change far too many opinions you have on life and the movie industry.