Friday, January 13, 2006

Movie Review: Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1914, during World War I, soldiers across the battlefield sponataneously laid down their arms and fraternised with the enemy. Christian Carion's moving film, Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) fictionalises this historical event. German, French, and Scottish troops are engaged in intense battle when Christmas Eve arrives and the warring armies decide to lay down their arms, bury their dead, and meet in No Man's Land to celebrate Mass with the priest accompanying the Scottish army. Joyeux Noel is deeply moving at times and, when it is, poignantly illustrates the absolute stupidity of war. There are moments of beautiful humour and profound sadness as the soldiers celebrate together and then have to return to killing each other. And none of the "sides" in the war are portrayed negatively or stereotyped as is done in so many war movies. The movie suffers from a couple of significant problems that undermine its overall power and enjoyment. It is way too long and the material that brackets the central narrative about the laying down of arms undermines the power of what happened on that Christmas Eve. Carion seems to lose focus on the main point of the movie and fills it with a number of subplots that could have been reduced in screen time or left out altogether. What happened on the battlefield is powerful in its own right and the director seems to have lost confidence in the narrative's own power. At times, the direction seems overdone and tends to make the story more unbelievable. However, Joyeux Noel is definitely worth a look for those moments where human emotions run deep and the futility and wastefulness of war are clearly seen. My Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review '... its effect is moving and inspiring.' - Avril Carruthers/In Film Australia Negative Review 'Heavy-handed, self-important and way, way too whimsical, Merry Christmas never hits home emotionally.' - David Edwards/London Daily Mirror Related Links

1 comment:

  1. Hello Steve,

    What subplots would you remove from Joyeux Noel?