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I watched Christian Carion’s “Joyeux Noel” (2005, rated PG-13) on the day after Thanksgiving. It was bliss. After reading about all the Black Friday shootings, stabbings, and stampedes that injured and even killed Christmas shoppers across the United States, it was a poignant relief to see the holiday suppressing violence, and even, temporarily, stopping a war.
“Joyeux Noel” (or “Merry Christmas” in French) tells the true story of a brief cease-fire among French, Scottish and German troops on Christmas Eve 1914, in the thick of The Great War. The soldiers had been living in the trenches, engaged in combat on the frontline only hours before, when through a unique set of circumstances, their Christmas Eve celebrations united them.
As I watched, I puzzled over the obvious: After this, how could they possibly keep fighting? The film answers the question with unnerving grace.
“Joyeux Noel” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and I’m surprised it didn’t win. The story is so good.
Furthermore, the way it’s told — from the standard war scenes with the constant barrage of gunfire and the desperate expressions of those who have to run into it, to a complete philosophical shift — is perfect.
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