12.23.2011

Review: Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel) Film



I had the pleasure of watching this film at the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church earlier this evening. I had heard of the cease fire for Christmas eve during WWI in 1914 for years and years from my mother.

The movie showcases so many different themes: leadership, how doctrine must be absolute in order to succeed, charity, how disconnected leaders are from the front lines, how soldiers must never see the human side of their enemy, how politics sneak and distort, how bad of a lip syncer Diane Krueger is... ^^;

When the group of people around me began discussing their thoughts about the movie, most of the individuals spoke up about politics and government corruption. This has been a very hot button for many people in recent years, and it looks like it's too fresh a wound.

Everyone agreed the cat was a great device, and the chocolate bar scene was a perfect example that it's always so hard to trust another person. We also agreed the ending was more of a foreshadowing device than a real conclusion to the film.

The conversation ranged from historical facts to anti-government opinion, and it was fascinating hearing the give and take in the group, with most people agreeing with each other and there being no escalation -- something which is unusual these days, but a welcome experience to witness.

One person was extremely out of the box, and right on the nail when she said that this could have perfectly well been a silent movie, because people's expressions and body language helped communicate so much. This may have been a function of her difficulty in reading the English subtitles when people were speaking French or German. Even then, she was perfectly right, you could feel the tension among the characters, and then, later, the camaraderie.

Someone else mentioned that the children in the beginning, narrating their respective doctrines in a monotone reminded them that hate must be taught, it doesn't come naturally. Someone said that was what Oscar Hammerstein II said when he wrote South Pacific: you've got to be carefully taught.

One thing I noticed was people mentioning the first amendment (freedom of speech) after they mentioned their sincere opinion or critique about the political themes in the film. Obviously they thought they were being extreme in some of the thoughts they were sharing. Even though it was clear we all had the same attitudes and shared values about many of the things that were being discussed. It almost felt like they were trying to excuse themselves. Isn't that interesting?

This brought up a question in my mind: are we really free if we have to excuse our opinion by a postscript reminding everyone of our freedom of speech? We have a right to gather in public and to express our views, let's not be shy about it. If you are going to be out of the box, work it and be proud.