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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
For my first entry, I am going to look at the 2005 foreign film, Joyeux Noël. Based on the World War I Christmas truce on the Western Front, the film really is a masterpiece. For those of you not totally familiar with this event in history, on Christmas Eve in 1914, there were several unofficial cease fires along the Western Front. The two sides (and some French units) met in No Man’s Land and agreed not to attack each other during the holiday. During this time, they buried their dead, played a few games of soccer, and exchanged a few basic gifts. A few days later, they went back and were forced to kill each other again.
I am not expert on the event, and I am sure the film takes many liberties with actual events. But, I do not care about that. Joyeux Noël tells a fantastic story, and everything clicks. Particularly the acting. You have the French, the Germans, and the Scottish all fraternizing and building quick friendships based on many having things in common. They genuinely enjoy each other. The sorrow these characters show when they are forced to return to their trench is heartbreaking.
Not surprisingly, this movie is largely an anti-war film. More surprisingly, this film has nothing to do with Vietnam (seriously, how come almost all anti-war movies have to center on Vietnam?). But unlike most anti-war movies where we see something from just one perspective (ie. the US soldier sees the horrors he is done to the native people he is fighting and regrets it), here we are given three different perspectives while all largely align. It makes the film’s message much more powerful. They also do not shove the whole “war is bad” down your throat the way other anti-war movies do. Joyeux Noël is much more natural and subtle without losing the point.
I should not that instead of all the actors speaking English with different accents (so, you know, stupid people can tell who is who), a good portion of it is subtitled with their characters speaking their native tongue. Deal with it. It adds that authentic flavor to the movie. Go see this movie.