Joyeux Noel - DVD Review

'I've had history lessons that have both told the story better and entertained me more'

Joyeux Noel. In April. Seasonal hey? Perhaps the reasons why I didn't enjoy this were down to the time of year - the fact that outside the daffodils are blooming rather than being blanketed by snow - but also, perhaps watching a film associated with Christmas time in Spring gives the chance of taking a bit more even a view of things. And I didn't always like what I was seeing.

One of my pet hates in film is knowing that I am being manipulated by a director into feeling things that just aren't present on screen. Christian Carion does this several times during the course of Joyeux Noel, most notably with Audebert (Guillaume Canet), the character representing the French. His lot is obviously a stodgy one and when Carion grandly reveals the real reason he is being brow-beaten by his superiors (a reason I and many others will have seen from a mile away) the director was really starting to test my patience. At least though, he does attempt to develop Audebert as an individual which is more than can be said for the German commander (Daniel Brühl) or the Frenchman's Scottish ally (Alex Ferns, who British viewers will last remember as the guy getting his head caved in with an iron in Eastenders).

The overriding feeling that Carion's manipulative efforts leave you with is that someone didn't have a clue as to how they were going to make a ninety-minute film out of the twenty minute scene Joyeux Noel builds up to. When we get to that scene it is, yes, emotive and tenderly acted and justifiably the subject of a film but everything that surrounds it feels tired and anticipatory, rather than something which needs or deserves to be there. Typical victims of this are Diane Kruger and Benno Fürmann who play an operatic couple separated by the war. There are hints here that tenderness and romance could be forthcoming but in the end, everything between them feels wooden and lifeless, again, all build up to when they open their mouths to sing on the battlefields.

Carion doesn't help matters by directing the whole thing in a processional, uncomplicated manner that frankly failed to hold my interest on many occasions. No scene I can remember does anything beyond the obvious; no standout shots, no tasty tracking, no up-close-and-personal tenderness - there's nothing here to suggest inspiration and towards the end, I was plodding along with it, rather than enjoying it on any level. A worthy subject indeed but I've had history lessons that have both told the story better and entertained me more.

Look further...

'takes the most brutal place on earth in that particular time and shows us that we are all human' - Row Three (Andrew James), 4/5


  1. Yes, well. Any war movie after Basterds will never be good, will it?

  2. I STILL haven't seen Basterds. Becoming a bit of an annoyance. Whenever I'm meant to watch it something happens. Bought it home from a friend's house the other night, sat down to stick it in the player - no disk in the case. And so on.