Saturday, January 01, 2011

Fabulous Film Recommendation

I happened to find a film on Netflix that I rented for Christmas. It was French, so I was immediately dubious. Most French films are a bunch of Nihilist garbage that have no point, no plot, and no discernible ending. Usually, such films have everybody die at which point the film stops, and the audience stumbles out of the theater, only to drive home feeling worse about life and not better.

Now, I admit my American film tastes here. Europeans tend to like that kind of genre. I do differ somewhat from average American film goers in that I do not not necessarily have to have a happy ending. It can be a sad ending or even a bizarre ending, but I do ask that the film have a conclusion of some kind: good, bad, or otherwise.

I like historical dramas, and Netflix recommended a film called Joyeux Noel. I had never heard of it, despite it having been nominated for a few Oscars back in 2006 in the Foreign Language category, though ironically, only part of the film is actually in a foreign language.

The film is basically about the Christmas Truce that occurred in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in World War I in 1914.  The film is an interesting blending of four major characters who meet during the truce: an Anglican priest, a French field officer, a German singer and his wife/girlfriend (their relationship is unclear but irrelevant to the story).

The film was one of the best depictions of the trenches in World War I I have seen since Gallipoli (a film that still has Mel Gibson with an Australian accent.)  The directors paid close attention to historical detail. (World War I history is a bit of a hobby of mine.)

What particularly fascinated me about the film was the Anglican aspect. The priest involved was from Scotland and was not all that fond of the war. His theological stance ultimately gets him taken off the line and replaced by a crackpot bishop who's all about winning the war at any cost.

The most poignant part of this film is the fallout from the truce on Christmas eve. The hierarchy of the army took a strong stance against such fraternization (even at Christmas) with the enemy thereafter because the soldiers during the truce largely learned that the soldiers in the opposing trench were largely just like them.

There is a terrific scene after the truce is over where an officer is ordering a soldier to fire on a German in No Man's Land, and they hesitate because they no longer see them as a faceless, bloodthirsty enemy, but someone just like themselves. If I was ever teaching a class on war or the morality and ethics of war, I would show this film.

The soldiers involved largely have to be reassigned to non-combat units at the very end of the film because they largely have been ruined from front line combat roles because of the glimpse of common humanity they see in one another.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend this film.

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