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‘Joyeux Noel’ has poignant message of friendship

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By Kelly Dolejsi

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.
It takes a special group of actors and crew, led by a visionary director, to make the truth feel believable onscreen. In this case what happened could easily have become sentimental. But this film includes only the right details, letting viewers experience something that happened almost 100 years ago and bringing the story a kind of immortality.
Ultimately, it’s far more than a Christmas movie. It reminds us that we are always capable of friendship. It is always a choice.
“Joyeux Noel” screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library as part of the library’s Free Film Series.
The Free Film Series presents a movie the first Thursday of nearly every month, thanks to the Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries.
For more information, call 662-8240.