Carion's youth was spent in his parents' farm fields in Northern France, where he was constantly reminded of World War I as the family often found dangerous unexploded shells left over from the conflicts in the fields. He had also heard of the stories in which French soldiers would leave their trenches at night to meet with their wives in the surrounding German-occupied towns and return to fight the next morning. Carion stated that he'd never heard of the actual Christmas truce incidents while growing up in France, as the French Army and authorities suppressed them, having been viewed as an act of disobedience. He was introduced to the stories via a historian who showed him photos and documents archived in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and became fascinated. He tried to portray all of the soldiers with equal sympathy, as "the people on the frontline can understand each other because they are living the same life and suffering the same way", so he could understand how the truce could have come about. He endeavored to stay true to the real stories, but one of the things he had to change was the fate of the cat that crossed into various trenches. In reality, the cat was accused of spying, arrested by the French Army and then shot by a firing squad, as an actual traitor would have been. The extras in the movie refused to participate in this scene, so it was amended to have the cat imprisoned.
Stephen Holden, film critic for The New York Times, liked the motion picture and 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."
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."
"Joyeux Noel" 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," "A Very Long Engagement" and, from later wars, "Saving Private Ryan" and "Platoon." 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.
this is actually one of the most heartwarming Christmas movies out there, why isn't anyone talking about it? Daniel Brühl is in it, so that's already a big bonus anddd its anti-war message works just great...but that kiss was super weird.
Elsewhere, the French lieutenant is being shamed by his father, who is also his military superior. He replies, "We have more in common with the German soldiers than with the French politicians that are sending us off to war." How true; it is the soldiers on the ground who most want peace. This movie reverberates in our hearts as we realize that these messages are relevant to present-day situations.
Admittedly, when the film opens and it's clear that this is another World War I movie, many will be unable to stifle a groan as they prepare to endure another two hours of blood-filled trenches and corpse-littered battlefields. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement," arrived less than two years ago, after all.
With Christmas fast approaching, the pickings are relatively slim this week for local movie fans looking for off-the-beaten-path movie events. Unsurprisingly, those events that are scheduled tend to have a holiday bent to them, such as the Deutsches Haus' annual screening of "Joyeux Noel." In fact, it tops this week's Thinking Outside the Box Office column, a regular listing of upcoming off-the-beaten-path movie events on tap for local film fans.
This movie is set in a horrific low point in human history. WWI was long and gruesome, unprecedented in its destruction. Of the estimated 10 million military deaths, about a third were caused not by battle itself but from diseases contracted in the cold, wet trenches. It is difficult to think of a more miserable time or place.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures Classics won an appeal to the Classification and Rating Appeals Board, which Thursday downgraded the R rating originally assigned to Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) for "some war violence and brief nudity" to a PG-13. SPC co-president Michael Barker and Christian Carion, who directed the film about a Christmas Eve truce during World War I, presented statements to the board, while CARA was repped by chairman Joan Graves. SPC is releasing the film, an Oscar nominee for best foreign-language film, today in New York. Carion said: "It is important this film is PG-13 because it is a movie young people should see. It has a message of peace, not violence, which is very important nowadays, especially for our youth."
It was Sun Tzu who once said, ''The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.'' Unfortunately, in World War I, the citizens of Earth saw death and destruction on a scale they had never seen previously. However, on Christmas Eve of 1914, a group of French, German, and Scottish soldiers decided they would subdue the war itself with an unforgettable moment of compassion. The following discussion questions will assist your middle and high schoolers, as they learn more about the movie that is a fictionalized account of amazing real-life events.
Joyeux Noel is a fine Christmas movie, which illustrates what Christmas is supposed to be all about, Peace and Goodwill, to All Men, no exceptions! It is also one of the greatest of Anti-War movies, easily the equal of All Quiet on the Western Front, Wooden Crosses, Paths of Glory (these are all about WWI, any one see a pattern here?)
It is also wonderful to see a war movie in which the USA is not present, not even mentioned. We did not enter that war until 1917, when it was almost over. Here it is early in the war, the French and Scots do not even wear helmets yet. The French are wearing bright red and blue uniforms and everyone appears reasonably clean and healthy. All that would change, World War One took the lives of 9 million men, devolved into the dirtiest and most miserable affair and resolved nothing. It lead directly to World War Two and an even bigger misery visited on the human race.
The DVD has a making of documentary and several versions of the theatrical trailer. We learn that the French production crew wanted accurate period detail, the uniforms and weapons are genuine. Even more heart breaking, the entire movie is taken from letters and diaries written by men who served in all three Armies. And we learn that truces broke out every Christmas after that and that fraternization was considered a problem on both sides of the trenches.
Even more accurately, the officers and men are all very young. This is not like an American World War Two movie where the army appears to be made up of middle aged men. The French officer, especially well played by Guillaume Canet , looks like a little boy playing at being a soldier, his uniform and cap appear too big for him, maybe a deliberate choice by the film makers to emphasize his innocence.
There are two things that I cherish above all in a film score: originality and passion. In these days of composing-by-numbers and temp track love, a lot of movie music feels mechanical and aseptic. A score which explores a sound that has never been used before or which is unafraid to let go and make a statement, to explode in a majestic theme, to serenade us with a heart-warming melody, to tell the percussion player to play fortissimo, that is a score which is already raising a proud head above the herd. Philippe Rombi\'s score to the French film Joyeux Noël (in English, Merry Christmas) may not break new ground, but it shows a passion for music that few film composers nowadays are allowed to muster, silenced (or at least held back) as they are by an industry that rarely dares to go beyond expectations.
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