Joyeux Noel (2006) 

 

 

 

Director:  Christian Carion

Starring:  Diane Kruger (Anna Srensen), Benno Frmann (Nikolaus Sprink), Guillaume Canet (Lieutenant Audebert), Dany Boon (Ponchel), Gary Lewis (Palmer), Daniel Brhl (Horstmayer), Alex Ferns (Gordon), Steven Robertson (Jonathan), Lucas Belvaux (Gueusselin), Bernard Le Coq (Le gnral Audebert), Ian Richardson (L'vLque/Bishop), Christopher Fulford (Le major), Robin Laing (William), Joachim Bissmeier (Zimmermann), Thomas Schmauser (Le Kronprinz)

French - German - English

soldiers on both sides call a Christmas truce and are punished for it

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Patriotism and loyalty are shown in the schools of France, Scotland and Germany.  World War I begins.

Lt. Nikolaus Sprink is a German opera singer and he and his girlfriend, the Danish opera singer Anna Srensen are set to put on a performance before Sprink has to head to the front lines of World War I. 

It is trench warfare.  The Scottish troops are on the left wing and the French troops on the right wing.   Their trenches are extremely close to those of the German trenches. 

The French commander wants to transfer the French Lieutenant to the artillery where he feels he will be more suited and will be able to get swifter promotions.  He is to leave for Poitiers soon. 

The Germans are busy figuring out how many Christmas trees they need for their troops.  They figure they need 100,000.  Anna visits the German military headquarters.  She decides that she will do a recital at headquarters with her beloved Sprink.  This will make it possible for her to be with him for at least one night.  It is Christmas Eve.  She and Sprink give their performance which is much appreciated by the German officers.  After the performance, Sprink has to tell her that he has to return to the trenches to be with his men.  He feels he must sing for them.  Anna is extremely upset and she insists that she will accompany him to the trenches, despite his many protestations. 

In the trenches, the Germans have decorated their many Christmas trees with lights. They can hear the Scottish soldiers playing their bagpipes and singing songs.  Sprink and Anna arrive and Sprink starts to sing "Silent Night".  The Scots are so taken with his voice that their bag pipes chime in playing along with his singing.  After Sprink finishes, the Scots applaud him wildly.  The Scottish bag pipers then start to play "Come all ye Faithul" and Sprink starts to sing along with them.  He stands up on top of the trench exposing himself to enemy fire.  He then grabs a Christmas tree and starts to walk over to the Scottish troops all the while singing.  The Scottish troops and German troops start to come out of their trenches into no man's land.  They are then joined by the French troops.  The French, German and Scottish officers meet in no man's land.  They decide to have a cease fire for Christmas Eve.  The troops share what they have with their enemies.  The German officer returns the wallet he found belonging to the French officer.  The troops all gather together and Anna sings a beautiful song for them.  The Scottish chaplain reads religious texts in Latin. 

Later the three officers decide to have another truce in order to pick up the bodies of the dead on non man's land.  The German officer learns that German artillery will soon open up on the French and Scottish lines.  So he invites them all over to the German trenches.  The Allied troops go over.  The shelling begins.  Then the French and Scottish officers invite the Germans over to their trenches to escape the return artillery bombardment.  The Germans go over to the Allied trenches and the predicted shelling begins of the German trenches.  After the shelling is over, the Germans go back to their own trenches. 

Anna and Sprink stay behind with the French troops.  They ask to become prisoners as long as they can stay together.  The French officer tries to dissuade them, but they insist.  He works out a way that they can be taken prisoner. 

But then the backlash occurs.  The troops start writing letters home in which they spoke of the strange goings-on of the troops that Christmas Eve and Day.  The headquarters of all three armies are notified and they take action against the officers and men.  The Scottish chaplain is sent back to his parish in Scotland.  In addition, the Scottish regiment is disbanded.   The high-ranking chaplain explains to the Scottish troops that the war is a crusade to save the freedom of the world:  "You must kill the Germans!"

The French commander tells the French officer that what he did could be considered high treason.  He is sent to join the fighting in the Verdun sector. 

The Crown Prince of Germany scolds the German unit involved in the Christmas truces.  He informs them that they are to be sent to the Russian front. 

The movie is dedicated to all those troops on all three sides who joined in the fraternization of the 1914 Christmas front line truces.  

 

Good movie.  The coming together of the enemy troops to declare Christmas truces was quite moving.  It was the triumph of good-will over the power politics of the day for a brief moment in time.  Something spiritual happened that Christmas of 1914.  But, of course, the fraternization of the troops had to be punished by the power structures.  The European countries had fought wars for centuries.  It was just one war after another.  The wars would not stop until World War II killed so many millions of Europeans that Europeans grew weary of war.  And, of course, and probably more importantly, atomic weapons changed the scenario.  War had finally become so terrible that the European countries, except the Soviet Union, could start to come together and they have. 

Of course, I knew the power structures of the three nations involved would have to punish the troops and their leaders.  Truces and peace are not acceptable if initiated by the troops.  The troops are carefully taught to kill their enemy.  Fraternization cannot be condoned.  It would destroy the fighting, killing spirit of the troops.  And this just could not be permitted in European nations that constantly fought each other.  And the inevitable punishment came.  But even though it had to be that way, we can still rejoice that there was this one glimmer of peace among men who were supposed to be bitter enemies.  Amidst all the sound and furor of battles and war, there was a glimmer of hope for something more than just constant warfare for human beings.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)