Day 9: Joyeux Noel (Twelve Days of Christmas)

This is the ninth in a series of posts, The Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. Each one will review/talk about a different Christmassy film and the whole thing spans 12 days – one film per day. You can read the original post about it (which also lists all 12 days of movies) here.

So……this post is going up a bit later than it was meant to. I could reel off a list of either elaborate and reasonable or true excuses as to why this is, but for now I’ll just stick with saying that I was busy and didn’t have time to write this review/talk-about. I did get to watch the Day 9 film – which was Joyeux Noel – yesterday, though, so I’m just having to write about it a day after having watched it. I will still try valiantly to watch and upload a review for the Day 10 film – the Santa Clause – today as well, mainly just because I don’t want to feel obliged to keep writing on Christmas Eve. Not that I don’t like writing or anything, because I love it, but I don’t want to feel like I have to write, you know?Joyeux Noel poster

I should probably get to the point now. Because you’ve probably noticed that I’m rambling, haven’t you? Well yes, I am. But in my defence, I am padding my blog post with rambles for very good reason: because I don’t know what else to say.

Okay, I am meant to be talking about Joyeux Noel right now, but I don’t really know where to start, much less where to go with my “review” of it. It’s not that it wasn’t a good and interesting film, but it was different to the others I’ve reviewed so far. For one thing, it was a very moving film.

See? This is what I mean. Saying it was “moving” really doesn’t do the film justice. If anything, it makes the film sound less moving than it really was. It’s weird that, as a writer, I can’t think of anything to write about Joyeux Noel, but that’s the way it is. Of course, I do have to say something about it. I’m sort of saying about it now, albeit in an awfully-written and disjointed way. But I suppose you really need to know the plot before I can say anything else. Here is the plot summary, shamelessly copied from IMDB (because I don’t feel able to summarise it well enough):

“In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man’s Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatizes one such section as the French, Scottish and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence.Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Joyeux Noel 2

Apparently the story of the film is based on numerous similar events that occurred around Christmas during World War I, including a particularly famous one in which German and British soldiers laid down their arms and played football together in no man’s land. This is both a happy and sad concept. Happy because it reaffirms the idea that shared humanity among men can prevail over orders to kill one another, but sad because we know that the war continued regardless of these events. Joyeux Noel is similarly happy and sad, but it had more impact than just reading about such events in textbooks.

Joyeux Noel BagpipesFirst of all, people appear more human when portrayed by actors in movies than they do as statistics on paper. You might see the number of, say, French people killed in WWI, but it won’t affect you as much as if you see a portrayal of just one of those people’s lives shown in a film. In Joyeux Noel, we’re told the stories of people from three sides of the war, including their lives before being called to fight. This includes, unfortunately, some characters that die, which leads me to the other reason this film was so powerful: because it wasn’t all about the inspiration and beautiful moment that happened between those people.

Before seeing Joyeux Noel, I thought that it was mainly going to have a message consisting of “war is bad, but humans are great so ultimately everything’s okay”. Not the case. Joyeux Noel does show very inspiring and touching scenes showing the fraternisation between the troops, but it shows the darker sides of the events as well. We’re shown battle scenes that rapidly earn the film its PG-13 rating within the first 30 minutes, schoolchildren reciting hateful war propaganda, soldiers having their minds twisted until they become emotionless killing machines, and the harsh reaction of the war commanders when they hear about the Christmas truce. Although it does make the film harder to watch, I liked the fact that they showed that not everyone automatically sides with peace. It might not be the happiest message, but it is the more genuine one.

Joyeux Noel Mass

That’s partially why I think war movies are good things to exist, in a way. This might come across as strange, given that I generally don’t like violence in films and am easily upset by war, but I think it’s much better for us to see these things in film than in real life. Of course,  it’s not the case that the higher number of war films are created the lower number of actual wars there are. Still, I think that war films can help remind us how horrible wars are, which is important. We can learn from our mistakes of starting wars in the past, but only if we remember what they were like. Nobody wants to be reminded through having more wars, so war films give us a chance to remember without actually hurting anyone. So whilst war books and films, Joyeux Noel included, might seem to do little more than make us unhappy, I believe they have a greater purpose than that.

All in all, Joyeux Noel was a great film. I really can’t fault it, which is why I’m giving it a 10/10 overall rating. It is definitely worth a watch, especially around Christmas. It might not seem as though it has a lot to do with this holiday, but out of all the films watched so far, Joyeux Noel comes the closest to portraying what I believe to be the “true” meaning of Christmas.

Overall rating: 10/10

Christmassy-ness rating: 6/10

Mary’s parental guidance rating: PG-13 (if the rest of the film had been like the first 30 minutes, I would put it as a 15 – however, it wasn’t, so I’ll keep it like this)

Tomorrow’s (or technically today’s) film: The Santa Clause

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