Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joyeux Noel, A Movie We Watch Each Year

German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment pose with men of the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment in 'No Man's Land' on the Western Front in
December 2014. Photo is in the Public Domain. You can read the
article HERE
Every year for the past three years, I've returned to an earlier post about a film that continues to move me deeply: Joyeux Noel, the 2005-2006 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. This has become my favorite Christmas movie, and I watch it each year. (You can order it from Amazon here: )

The individual stories highlighted in the film (among them, a German opera singer gets permission to join her lover at the front for Christmas Eve) were fictitious, but the over all story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire, and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve. Bonds were formed. The next day, troops  even warned each other of planned shellings and offered refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

A few years ago, Sacramento Bee published an article about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that actually occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front. One such place was Flanders Field, (the site of John McCrae’s famous poem later, comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies.) You can read the article by pressing "HERE" under the photo above.

In Joyeux Noel, on Christmas Eve, German soldiers began playing music familiar to both German and Scottish soldiers. Then the French joined in. Soon an informal truce was struck. Troops visited each other, gave each other food and small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, peace broke out. The Christmas mass was conducted out in No Man's Land with all of the soldiers responding in their different languages.But afterwards, (as happened in the movie), army generals took steps to make sure it couldn't happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime, generals stepped up the fighting to ensure that no one would even think of a truce.

In this case, for all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to prevent future occurrences.

Joyeux Noel is a remarkable film--a reminder that we are human first, and that the human impulse is toward peace. It is the political impulse that moves nations to war. Basic decency is core to the human heart.

So here it is again: The New Year is on its way. We still live in a troubled world, wondering how to meet the challenges, though the Christmas message is clear—one we should be thinking of as we decorate our trees, hang our lights, send our cards: Peace on earth, good will to all.

Best wishes for a time of true peace, when love is stronger than fear, and people can be united again in their common humanity.