2005 - France - 116 minutes
Writer and Director - Christian Carion
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.7/10 - Link to IMDB
Roger Ebert's Rating - 3 of 4 Stars - Link to Ebert's Review
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

This is a wonderful holiday movie with a bite. It is based upon actual events during World War I centering upon Christmas Eve of 1914. Historical facts tell us that the soldiers from both sides left their trenches and met in the no-man's zone in a peaceful celebration of the holiday. They exchanged information about their lives, shared holiday goodies, sang, and prayed together. This was all much to the chagrin of the generals and leaders who - after the events of fraternization - disbanded the companies or sent them to other locations.

This depiction of those events is highly romanticized, but not totally sanitized. There are brutal scenes of battle that might be disturbing to young viewers, so it is not a movie that a family with elementary aged children or younger will be able to watch together, but older children - hopefully - will be inspired by the humanity that was still able to exist in the midst of carnage and horror. After all, these were real men and women, and these were real events.

The basic story centers around two German opera singers - the woman who was able to use her celebrity and influence to actually visit her lover who is serving on the front lines. In reality, the Germans were very enthusiastic about the celebration of the holiday and provided their soldiers on the front lines with Christmas trees. In the film, the soldier begins singing and carries a lighted tree into the line of fire. Historical records show that the singing of the Germans and their practice of putting the lighted trees along the edge of trench often precipitated the holiday fraternization.

On the DVD, there is a most interesting interview with the writer and director that gives some good insight to his quest to tell this story on film.

Even with the presence of war and death, this film - supported by beautiful music and superior production values - makes you feel good because it reaffirms man's basic humanity.  

Neil Turner
December 3, 2006

Joyeux Noël
English Title: Merry Christmas