wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Based on a true story of World War in 1914 where German, French and Scottish soldiers declared ceasefire for one night to celebrate Christmas together in no man’s land, Merry Christmas tells a moving story of how culture, religion and brotherhood can bring people together. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars (2006), Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, this film features an exciting ensemble cast who chip in with great performances. Gripping, touching and has a wonderful message.Read more
There’s something about music from the bagpipes, isn’t it? Think Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and you can faintly recollect its sound. There’s an amazing pathos in the notes it produces. Something which a film like Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) has in plenty.
One of the remarkable features about watching Merry Christmas is that when the movie is on, there are scenes that scream out to you that this indeed is great cinema unfolding in front of you. I felt so the first time I watched it at the MAMI Film Festival some years ago, where the film received a standing ovation.
On DVD, I not only relived that experience - I was moved to tears, yet again in many scenes - I also realised that this film has one of the finest messages about peace and humanity. Ideally, this movie should have released in India. In a country where J P Dutta’s Border was such a success, Merry Christmas is blockbuster material.
Based on a true story, the film is set during a Christmas eve in the first World War, when Scottish, German and French soldiers on the Western Front set aside their differences and declared ceasefire for one night to celebrate Christmas together.
It’s got a simple plot, but it is the moving screenplay and the a wonderful star-cast that makes the film so watchable. It also has one of the most uplifting background scores - it plays a crucial role in conveying the soldiers’ emotions. Music, in fact plays a vital role in the film - it is what unites the soldiers and proves that no matter which country you’re from, those notes emanating from the bagpipes and mouth organs can blur any dividing lines. And the story sets a fantastic example of religion - Christianity - acting as a great unifier, rather than a divide between people. The story also makes a strong point about European countries’ culture and heritage, whose roots are more or less similar.
The scale of how important the film is understood by the number of languages the film touches. There’s English (with a heavy Scottish accent), German and French. The proximity of each of these countries is depicted through some wonderful interludes between the soldiers - someone knows a relative or two on the other side, letters are passed on, promises are made to visit them after the war, there are invitations to come over for a drink, compliments are passed about the others' wives and you witness all of this with a lump in your throat, because you sense that they may not survive this battle together. How will they get back to shooting at each other the next morning?
That’s the irony on which the storyline balances itself and sends out a strong message that despite being divided by man-made borders, humanity essentially has some simple needs - caring about our loved ones, wanting to be with our families during festivals and the right to live a good life and get a decent funeral.
Director Christian Carion, a Frenchman himself proves that he is a fine director of an ensemble starcast. That comprises of the outstanding French lieutenant Audebert (Guillame Canet), the Bishop Palmer (Gary Lewis) who doubles up as a doctor on the Scottish army camp, the suave Scottish chief Gordon (Alex Ferns) and the impressive Horstmayer (Daniel Bruhl), who’s a Jew leading the German camp, but still celebrates Christmas with as much fervour as the others. There are two opera icons Sprink (Benno Furmann) and Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger), who help give form to the cease fire, through their singing.
It’s a memorable watch and after you’ve seen it, there’s a sense of fulfillment that very few movies are able to produce. 'I’m Dreaming of Home', the theme song is something you’ll be humming long after the film is over.
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Christmas Eve, 1914. The bloodiest war in human history is underway. In a stunning expression of humanity, front-line soldiers cross the battle field to meet each other in no man’s land and share a precious pause in the carnage. Rifles are left in the trenches, soldiers shake hands, cigarettes and chocolates are exchanged and they wish each other Merry Christmas. Based on a true story, this film serves as a grim reminder of the human cost of war, while bringing home the true meaning of brotherhood.