FRENCH ENTRY FOR BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OSCAR NOMINATION
CANNES FILM FESTAL 2005, OUT OF COMPETITION
In French with English Subtitles
Director: Christian Carion
Starring: Diane Kruger("Troy"), Guillaume
Canet (“Love me if you dare”), Daniel Bruhl (“Goodbye
Lenin”), Gary Lewis (“Billy Elliot”),
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Festive
Official Website: www.festivefilms.com/merrychristmas/
Opening Day: 22 December 2005
This movie is inspired by a true story, which happened during
the First World War, for Christmas Eve 1914, in many different
places of the battlefront.
When war breaks out in the lull of summer 1914, it surprises
and pulls millions of men in its wake.
And Christmas arrives, with it’s snow and multitude
of family and army presents. But the surprise won’t
come from inside the generous parcels, which lie in the French,
Scottish and German trenches.
That night, a momentous event will turn the destinies of 4
characters: An Anglican priest, a French lieutenant, an exceptional
tenor and the one he loves, a wonderful soprano and singing
partner. During this Christmas eve, the unthinkable will happen:
rifles will be left at the bottom of the trenches to go, candle
in hand, to see those opposite, shake their hands, exchange
a cigarette and a piece of chocolate, wish them “Merry
Based on true events that happened across Europe in the Great
War, “Merry Christmas” centers on the Christmas
Truce of 1914, where soldiers from all fronts laid down their
arms to celebrate Christmas on No Man’s Land. Miniature
Christmas trees are lighted, music becomes the lingua franca,
temporal friendships forged, football between the French and
Germans…y’know, the usual stuff.
story unquestionably deserves to be told, yet in this retelling
it seems to have lost some of the noble luster it’s
seeking to convey. We are introduced to three camps including
the French and Scottish on one side and the Germans on the
other- an allied divide succinctly captured in the film’s
opening scene. Three children from each country recite, separately,
a nationalistic poem in an arresting montage that could well
be the best scene executed in this film.
follow-up is, however, disappointing. What ensues is largely
predictable, which is sacrilegious, considering the incredible
nature of the story. The pace is perhaps satisfactory for
the average moviegoer but ultimately, it is simply not risky
enough to reel in the demographic that will undoubtedly occupy
the majority of its box office intake: the war-movie buffs.
The underlying message is one of universal humanity, but in
failing to translate its story well, “Merry Christmas”
will be no more than a competent addition to a genre already
overflowing with a multitude of excellent films.
outstanding parts of the film that leave most to be desired
would have to be those featuring Diane Kruger’s professional
soprano; dubbing has never been this obvious since Ashlee
Simpson’s Saturday Night Live fiasco. Here, as with
the rest of this promising film, we witness an exceptional
concept stifled by the way it’s forced into something
that simply does not fit. There are segments that feel overemphasized,
such as the love story between Anna (Kruger) and Sprink (Benno
Furmann). While it does not hinder the film to fatal extents
(think: “Pearl Harbour”), dwelling on this merely
means compromised time – an unworthy risk when you have
a whole World War I tale to uncover.
a story with such potential for layered examinations of human
dilemma and paradox can only fail in its inadequate treatment,
whether in terms of acting, writing or direction – there
are fine nuances traceable in Daniel Bruhl’s Lt. Horstmayer
(his family; his attitude towards Sprink) but such subtleties
are left sadly unexploited. On the other hand, scenes such
as that of the last sermon being interspersed with Anglican
priest Palmer’s (Gary Lewis) wordless anguish, as well
as the closing shot of a train advancing into hopeless despair
are masterful, though perhaps leaning towards the didactic.
Nevertheless the symbolism is all too apparent, and we’re
left to marvel at the infinite idiocy of war.
left, then, is a barrel of if-onlys. If only the focus had
been more defined, if only the makers were that much riskier.
“Merry Christmas” is France’s official entry
for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and as
with “Les Choristes”, the French entry last year,
the film is enjoyable and moving, but nowhere near the caliber
of such French gems as “Amelie”. If only, if only.
Christmas” is lukewarm but competent, articulate though
lacking in eloquence. Nonetheless, it’s worth a look.)
by Angeline Chui