One of this things that I have been doing here in Korea is a movie reviewer for the http://educatorskorea.org/newsite/content/blogcategory/66/57/ web site. I had a chance to see this film and it just took away my breath. Here is the review that I did. (the link has an error by the author, I have emailed her and asked for a correction) I know, Mike is reveiwing a French film and he loved it? Has he lost it? For those who do not know I am so anti-French for so many different reasons so this will come off as a huge shock.
Please see the movie!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of
incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we
had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
These same words would have worked in 1914 France; it was on the front lines of World War I.
The film is in German, French, Latin and English.
Before you read my Christmas Movie review, please read an article about what happened first, so my review will make scenes.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25206-2004Dec24.html (hope this works if not the link is above)
Wow! Is the first word that comes to mind after watching this movie.
If you a military man then this film will hit home early and often. If not a lot of this film will not make sense. Let me try and explain this film to you.
The plot is really simple, it is December 1914 and Scottish, French and German units are stuck in trench warfare. It it becoming closer to Christmas and the men decide instead of war that a truce is declared.
The film was so believable even from the beginning where there are three children talking about how the enemy must be destroyed and killed in 3 different languages (English, French, German). to the end where you see the aftermath of peace, when the world wants war.
The film opens with the children and then 3 different shots of Scotland (where a boy rings the church bells and is happy that war is declared) France, (Where a Senior Officer tells his son, a Junior officer, that the big war that France has wanted with Germany is at hand) and Germany (where an Opera singer is drafted into the German Army).
What I really liked about this film was that It shows all 3 sides and shows their fears and doubts of the war. In the next shot you see a brother have to leave his brother in No Man's Land ( In WW1 and other later wars which involved trench warfare, the term no man's land indicated the land between the trenches of the opposing foes. This land belonged to neither side; it was a neutral place on the battlefield. No man's land was a very dangerous area because it usually provided none of the cover that trenches are designed to. However, soldiers were forced to venture into it when advancing, and stretcher bearers would need to traverse it if they were to bring in the wounded.
No man's land was often a hellish experience for soldiers, ranging from several hundred yards to in some cases as short as 15 meters. Heavily defended by machine guns and riflemen on both sides, they also were often riddled with land mines and barbed wire. Intense bombing and artillery often blanketed the no man's land in a sea of explosions and fire. The area was usually devastated by the warfare, leaving little to no foliage left to cover in and providing an excellent way for enemies in the other trench to shower death upon charging infantry.)
The brother feels guilty that he has abandoned his brother to die alone. You then see a German Female who has figured out how to work the system and get to see her lover, who is stationed on the front lines, at an Officer party where they are to be the guest singers. He feels guilty that he is safe and that his friends are not. He goes back to the front with his girlfriend in tow. The film makes fun of the officers, please see the Scottish and German jabs at their officers.
It all starts simple enough, the Scottish soldiers are celebrating Christmas and they decide to play their bagpipes. The French and German soldiers are stunned but they listen. Then the German soldier who can sing gets up and sings a German Christmas song, while he is singing the Scott's join in with their bagpipes and help him out. After the song is done, the singer listens to the pipes play Oh Christmas tree. The German then did something that will stop the audiences, he get up and picks up a small Christmas tree while singing carries the tree into the middle of no man's land. After he is finished the Scottish soldiers erupt in huge clapping, the French soldiers are just stunned but they also show that they have liked it. The German and The Scottish officer then start to talk in broken English and soon the French officer then joins them, they agree to a truce for Christmas.
Then all 3 sides come out of their trenches and meet and talk, It soon becomes midnight and a stretcher bearer, who is also a priest back home, leads a Christmas mass in Latin with all 3 sides participating in the mass. That night it was peace on earth and goodwill towards men, for no one died their that night. The next day, the brother finds the body of his dead brother and is trying to bury it, another truce is declared so that all sides can bury their dead. The scene that got me the most is when the priest went to a German grave and gave it blessing in Latin.
The next day (Boxing Day for the Scott's) was observed also, all of the soldiers went into the German trenched because the Germans were going to fire artillery at the Allied side. after the Germans has finished shooting, the Scottish Officer stated that he thought that the British would fire next, so everybody then goes to the Scottish side and waits until the Allied side has finished. On Boxing Day nobody died. Everybody states their goodbyes, the German officer tells the girl and her lover to surrender so that their voices can survive and that they will not be blamed for the truce.
When all 3 sides headquarters learn of the truce, by reading their soldiers mail, Hell in unleashed. The Scottish unit is disbanded and broken up. The Germans are arrested and redeployed by train. The French father yells at his son and calls him a fool who has thrown away a good career. What was the most damning was the Priest supervisors reaction. He tell him that he is being sent back to Scotland and that he has done wrong in God's eyes. (You must remember one thing here all 3 sides were told by their men of faith that their side was right and that they are on Gods side) (This was used allot in the US Civil War by both sides and is used now in the war against terrorism)
His reply was so correct, I was talking to the masses that day and in his eyes they were all Gods children. He was rebuked and as he listened to his supervisor tell the men that they must kill Germans and that they are evil etc etc. He removes his cross and walks away. The Bible teaches us to preach the word to all that will listen not just select people, all who came to listened that night received his holy words.
The film shows very well why all of the Headquarters were scarred of this truth, In war you must make the enemy sound so bad that when you kill him you will give no sadness nor guilt. Something went wrong, these men met and realized besides the language that their really was not much of a difference. They all had families, loved ones and all wanted to be anywhere in the world except where they were, at war.
When I was in the US Army, I was taught that the USSR was the enemy and I taught others what the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) taught me at Munich, were the enemy and needed to be killed and to kill all of them. To this day I do not trust neither Russia or the PLO, to be honest I do not know if I ever will. I recall the sermons about God's Army and how the Russians were killing Christians. Seeing this reminded me of those times.
The ordinary soldier will respect this film, the higher ranking officers will be very afraid of this film. Daniel Bruhl once again shows why he will be a leading actor for years to come. In this film he plays the German officer in charge and if you saw the movie, "Good Bye Lenin" He was the star of that classic also.
Overall if you want a good story where insanity is the norm and men learn that truce has too high of a price, then please see this film when you can.
Grade: A+ (Peace on Earth and goodwill towards all of Gods' fellow humans beings)
Release in Korea unknown. Scheduled for March in the USA (yes, a Christmas film in March).