A merry Christmas in the trenches

9th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 9 (AFP) - British, French and German soldiers down their rifles and celebrate Christmas together between their trenches in a moving French film due for release Wednesday, two days before the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.

PARIS, Nov 9 (AFP) - British, French and German soldiers down their rifles and celebrate Christmas together between their trenches in a moving French film due for release Wednesday, two days before the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.

'Joyeux Noel' (Merry Christmas) -- a joint German, British, Belgian, French and Romanian production directed by Christian Caron -- covers a 24-hour festive truce made by three lieutenants who meet in no man's land, resembling the historical Christmas truce of 1914.

The Frenchman Audebert (played by William Canet), the Scotsman Gordon (Alex
Ferns) and the German Horstmayer (Daniel Bruhl) lead their men in laying down their rifles after four months of fighting that saw hundreds of thousands killed.

A Prussian soldier sings 'Silent Night' in response to the music of the bagpipes as enemy troops exchange chocolates, champagne and liquor; a Scottish chaplain (Palmer, played by Gary Lewis) leads prayers, and the troops hold a friendly football match -- as British and German troops are reported to have done in 1914.

A love story unfolds between the Prussian soldier, Nikolaus Sprink (Benno
Furmann) and a Danish singer Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger), who arrives in the German trench on Christmas Eve after a concert in a château occupied by the  German general staff.

Christmas Day is spent burying the dead and troops from each side shelter in the enemy trenches while their own are shelled.

The commanders put an end to the jolliness: the Scottish regiment is disbanded, the priest returns home, the French soldiers are dispatched to Verdun and the Germans to the Russian front.

'Joyeux Noel' takes some dramatic licence and suffers from certain anachronisms, but is historically faithful on the whole and helped by sober, nuanced performances (notably Dany Boon as the French soldier Ponchel).

The battle of Verdun took place in February 1916, more than two years after the time of the film's action and the battle of Tannenberg -- the name on the wagon that takes Horstmayer's men to the Russian front -- happened months before in August 1914.

Truces were made throughout the war, General Andre Bach, former head of the French army's historical service and author of a book on mutinies, told AFP.

"In some places, tacit truces between enemy soldiers even lasted for months, each one taking care not to fire any rifle shots," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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