Joyeux Noel (“Merry Christmas”) finds a moment of grace in a landscape of evil. Nominated for foreign film awards (Golden Globe and Academy Award), director Christian Carion’s detailed historical research into World War I fraternization accounts constructs an emotionally charged movie going event. [To gain proper background information, be sure to watch Carion’s interview in “Special Features.”] Devoid of sentimentality, richness of characterization and subtle nuance of the human spirit imbue Joyeux Noel with power resonating in the mind for days afterward. While there is an underlying sub-text of anti-war, anti-authoritarian, anti-institutional religion, one is overtaken by openness to hope of ordinary soldiers. An impromptu music fest leads to a truce ending with a Latin mass attended by both sides and the burial of each combatant’s dead. American audiences will not recognize many of the actors (outside of Gary Lewis, father of Billy Elliot). Yet, each performance is riveting and persuasive. Most agree that the trench warfare of “the war to end all wars” was the most unnecessary sacrifice of so many dead in human history. But like every awful event, rays of light break through the darkness to illumine dignity and grace; residue of our image-bearer status.
Subtitled with English speaking scenes. Rated PG-13 for language, violence, and a brief scene of sexuality (two lovers in bed).
Foreign films often identify issues unresearched in American cinema. Mark Eckel teaches at Crossroads Bible College