By: Nicholas Comeau
“Joyeux Noel” is a French film which was released in Germany in 2004 and then across the world in 2005. It focuses on the story of several individuals from Germany, Scotland, France, and their role in the famed christmas armistice during World War One in 1914. In the beginning of the movie the viewer is introduced to several different characters, a French army officer, a German opera singer, two young Scottish brothers and their priest. The movie gives them a small bit of backstory then throws them into the action of trench warfare. The fighting continues until Christmas Eve when the Germans start to sing Christmas carols. The Scottish regiment then played the bagpipes to match the songs that the Germans were singing. After a while the Germans mounted Christmas trees on top of their trenches and came out to meet the Scottish. The Sottish were wary at first but then came out to meet the Germans. During this interaction the French are sizing up the Germans to see if this is a trick but later they join the Scots and Germans in their peace treaty. Once the celebrations are over the three groups go back to their trenches knowing that they’ll have to fight each other in the morning. When morning comes though a white flag is raised and they continue the peace treaty for Christmas day in order to bury their dead. The next day the German officer gets word that the French and Scottish trenches will be bombarded with explosives and offers to shelter them. After the bombardment stops the French and Scottish open up their trenches to protect the Germans from their imminent bombing. Days later the higher ranking officers make changes to each group of soldiers. The German regiment is shipped off to fight the Russians on the Eastern Front, The French regiment is being shipped to Verdun, and the Scottish regiment is being disbanded.
How realistic was it?
This movie can be interpreted as realistic or unrealistic in two ways: in a Warfare sense and a Christmas Armistice sense. In a warfare sense this was accurate in many ways, the distance between the trenches was recorded to be very close in some areas. Also the way that the bombardments occurred and how the soldiers followed closely after in was quite accurate. This was so the friendly troops could cover some ground before the enemy troops could recover from the explosions and fire at them. In regards to how realistic the Christmas Armistice portion of this movie is hard to tell. While the Christmas Armistice did happen all across the Western Front based on many reports from soldiers who participated in it, the details are hard to know for a fact. This was not an official peace treaty so this event was suppressed by the higher ranking officials in every army. The only documentation of this event can be found in pictures, letters, and journals of the men who participated in it. That being said there is not a set list of things that happened during this time between groups of people. Therefore anything could have happened between enemies during this event. That being said this movie is very accurate to the Christmas Armistice due to it covering the main recorded details about how the Germans started the peace treaty, soldiers gave gifts to each other, and the simple soccer games.
How unrealistic was it?
The unrealistic side of this movie can also be split in two, warfare and Christmas. In terms of warfare this movie was not too unrealistic. The only glaring differences between this movie and history was the condition of the trenches. While the viewer does not get to see the trenches in detail they do not seem that bad in terms of a place to be, discounting the gunfire and explosions. The trenches of WW1 were horrible places to be, it was a place where soldiers ate, slept, fought, got sick, and went the bathroom all in the same restricted area. In this movie the soldiers did not look that dirty and they all seemed to be in fine spirits and were somewhat comfortable in the trenches. While there were references to the bad things of trench warfare such as rats and lice not much was shown to drive home the point of how bad off these soldiers were. In terms of it being a movie though this is an understandable change due to the fact that showing a real disgusting trench could unnerve and disgust plenty of movie goers. In terms of the Christmas Armistice this movie is not that unrealistic due to the fact that little is known about the details of this event. The fact that in the movie they held one giant mass between the three groups and they took shelter in each others trenches seems to be a bit of a stretch but definitively no one can say that did not happen somewhere.
The movie “Joyeux Noel” is a very special movie not just because it covers the enchanting story of an impromptu peace treaty in one of the bloodiest wars in our history. It is special because it covers an event that has not been well documented so the creators have a lot of things they can do with the story and no one can say that what they made did not actually happen. Adding that to the fact that they made a movie that showed off as much of the realities of trench warfare without disgusting or driving away the audience this was a very good movie in a historical correctness sense. This movie shows the audience that even in such a dark place as war humanity can emerge and spread goodwill between enemies and friends alike. This movie is not just for history lovers, it is for anyone who simply loves kindness and a heartwarming story.
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Joyeux Noel Movie Christmas Armistice. Digital image. Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel Movie. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
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Soldiers playing soccer Christmas Armistice. Digital image. Football Remembers 100 Years since WW1 Christmas Truce. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.