Merry Christmas (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/12/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Despite the director’s heavy-handed attempts to hammer home an important message, this remains an engaging and remarkable story with likeable, well-written characters.

The Background
Merry Christmas (or Joyeux Noel, original title fans) is written and directed by French director Christian Carion. It’s based on the true stories of the truce that occurred between the opposing sides in the trenches of the World War I battlefield on Christmas Eve, 1914.

The Story
The film is set in December 1914, where the French and the Scots are fighting the pesky Germans in the trenches. Morale is low on both sides as the soldiers realise that it probably won’t all be over by Christmas after all. On Christmas Eve the sound of bagpipes prompts a German opera-singing soldier (Bruno Fürmann) to start singing carols, whereupon the Scots join in on the bagpipes and everyone applauds.

It isn’t long before the three leaders are meeting on the battlefield and declaring a cease-fire for Christmas. The cease-fire includes football games, drinking, present-swapping, a mass Mass (led by Gary Lewis) and the burial of the dead. But after all the camaraderie, will the soldiers still be able to shoot each other afterwards?

The Good
The film is extremely well cast – it’s a treat to see familiar British, German and French actors on screen together and it adds considerably to the film’s authenticity. Canet in particular gives an extremely likeable performance – his scenes with Bruhl and Ferns are genuinely moving.

However, the casting of Diane Kruger (as Fürmann’s opera-singing girlfriend who somehow shows up in the trenches) seems like little more than an excuse for a sex scene and a spot of nudity.

The Bad
The message is clear enough – Carion might just as well have called the film Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?. However, Carion insists on spelling it out over and over again, just in case anyone missed it. He also can’t resist diving into sentimentality and equally heavy-handed irony which threatens to overbalance the entire film.

The Conclusion
That said, this is an undeniably fascinating story and the characters are engaging and likeable enough to carry the film through its dodgier moments. Worth seeing.

Film Trailer

Merry Christmas (PG)
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Content updated: 20/09/2018 09:21

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