Monday, April 17, 2006
I wish this had been out where I could see it closer to Christmas, but it's powerful nonetheless. I'd heard the story about the cease fire between the German, English (actually Scottish, according to the film), and French troops on Christmas 1914, during World War I. The film elaborates quite a bit on the story, but it makes for a good movie. What struck me the most about this movie is how up close and personal war used to be. Perhaps that is what made the cease fire possible in the first place.
The portrait of the night itself is incredibly poignant, as one would expect it to be. The songs, the mass, soldiers sharing wine and pictures of their wives and children. But even more poignant is the aftermath. The soldiers are accused of treason. The priest who performed what he called "the most important mass of my life" was sent home, criticized by the bishop who proceeds to tell the troops the men they shared drinks and exchanged addresses with were not children of God. Upon first hearing this story, I wondered how it ultimately ended. The film suggests that the men were forever changed and had not the heart to continue fighting these men that they now knew as human beings with common goals and struggles. But the war, of course, would not be stopped.
There's not much actual "war" in this war movie, but it's only fitting, since it is about a moment of peace. It's an amazing story, even if much of the film version is likely fabricated. And perhaps best of all is the wonderful music, particularly the "Fraternizers' Hymn." Truly wonderful.