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The Great War (1914 - 1918) is raging in Northern France, as Christmas 1914 approaches. French and British troops side by side in the trenches, are fighting the Germans barely 100 metres across the freezing field. Men like Scottish Anglican priest, Palmer (Gary Lewis) and French Lieutenant Adebert (Guillaume Canet) on one side, and popular Berlin Opera tenor Sprink (Benno Furmann), on the other. Sprink's lover, the soprano Anna (Diane Kruger) uses her wits and wiles to arrange a Christmas recital for a Prussian nobleman so she can sing for the soldiers at the trenches - just to be united with her lover for at least one night. When Sprink places a small Christmas tree on top of the trenches on the German side, and the Scottish bagpipes begin playing carols, a tentatively humane Christmas mood begins to settle on the war scarred men. The officers meet and agree to a brief cease fire, and the Christmas spirit flows. But not everyone in higher places thinks this is wonderful.

Review by Louise Keller:
True stories are often the most incredible, and Joyeux Noel is as incredible as they come. A visceral film with immense emotional impact, Christian Carion's film is told with simplicity and sincerity. The notion of a cease fire at Christmas, in the middle of a bloody battle may sound contrived, but there is nothing contrived the way the events evolve. Putting the human face on war, Joyeux Noel initially introduces us to men from Scotland, France and Germany, in the bunkers of war. We have already met them in their homelands and the shock of the harsh, bloody conditions, is almost too much to bear.

The battle scenes are tough and relentless and it feels as though the nightmare of war will never end. The advent of Christmas prompts Diane Kruger's opera singer Anna to use her celebrity to enable her lover Sprink (Benno Furmann) to come home for one night. But Sprink finds the task of singing to the German officers difficult and desperately wants to return to his post and sing for the soldiers. We are acutely aware of the proximity between the soldiers from opposing sides, when the distinctive sound of bagpipes is heard from the Scottish bunkers. Time seems to stop, as we watch in amazement as the camaraderie spreads like a warm glow. Sprink climbs out of the bunker into the middle of noman's land, as he sings a moving rendition of Stille Nacht, while holding a small Christmas tree in his hand.

Three languages become one as the men from all sides unite, share a Christmas drink, play soccer together and exchange intimate details of their lives. Tears streamed down my cheeks for much of this beautiful film, which inspires, reassures and triggers our every sense of decency and hope.

DVD bonus features include an interview with director Christian Carion, audio commentary and behind the scenes including the making of the music.

Published October 19, 2006

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(France/Germany/UK/Belgium/Romania, 2005)

CAST: Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruehl, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis, Benno Fürmann, Danny Boon

PRODUCER: Christoph Rossignon

DIRECTOR: Christian Carion

SCRIPT: Christian Carion

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Walther van den Ende

EDITOR: Andrea Sedlackova

MUSIC: Philippe Rombi

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Michel Simonet

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 15, 2005


SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of The Film; Interview With Director Christian Carion; Making Of The Music; Director's Commentary of the film


DVD RELEASE: October 19, 2006

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