In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorised, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man's Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatises one such section as the French, Scottish and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence.
 

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An incredible true story that will fill you with hope for the human race.

France\'s official submission for the foreign language Academy Award is MERRY CHRISTMAS or Joyeux Noel, a multi-language film that has topped the French box office.

Writer / Director, Christian Carion brings to the screen the true World War One story, when peace broke out on the battlefield. It\'s Christmas eve 1914 and French, Scottish and German battalions have dug themselves in for the long haul, occupying trenches only metres away from each other, on what used to be a provincial French farm. The conditions are appalling. It\'s freezing cold, there\'s constant shelling, terrible injuries and morale is very low. Scores of men, who have died in battle, lie in the small clearing between the trenches. It\'s too dangerous to retrieve their bodies. The German\'s are led by Horstmayer (Daniel Br\'hl from Good bye, Lenin! and The Edukators), the French by Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet) and the Scots by Gordon (Alex Ferns).

On the German side is famous tenor, Nicholas Sprink (Benno Furmann). His Danish girlfriend, Anna Sorenson (Diane Kruger), also an opera singer is desperate to see him once more. She arranges a recital for the high-ranking officers, allowing Nicholas out of the trenches for one night. After the performance they return to sing for the German soldiers and the Scots, hearing his voice, join in with their bagpipes. Amazed, Sprink takes a Christmas tree and jumps out of the trench, singing and walking into No Man\'s Land. His simple act sparks a ceasefire for the night. The three sides share food and alcohol and are then led in a Christmas Eve Mass.

This extraordinary event is a fascinating fact of WWI, where soldiers learnt that they had more in common with the enemy in the trench beyond, than their superior officers. For a short while, during wartime, they didn\'t care about the ramifications of fraternizing with the enemy.

The performances are mostly solid, particularly Daniel Bruhl as the German Captain, but Diane Kruger and Benno Furrmann, playing the two singers and lovers, have next to no chemistry and their obvious lip synching is distracting. However, what this compelling historical story is not helped by Carion\'s intentionally melodramatic and sentimental direction. The impact is reduced because he doesn\'t immerse us in the reality of war, so we don\'t really get a sense of what it was like for these men. We should have been able to smell the blood, feel the cold and the pain of these soldiers, but instead it feels staged, as though Carion was directing for the theatre. As a result, Merry Christmas is not quite the searing tale about the tragedy of war that it could have been.