Before the opening credits rolled on this film I had been thinking that I really wasn’t in th emood for seeing a foreign film that I’d have to read. And then some bint knocked over my popcorn so I wasn’t too happy. The credit sequence was long, and too be honest, not all interesting, but once the film began I really got sucked in and would have to rate it as once of the best films I’ve seen.
Set in the trenches of World War I this is a story based on the true-life unofficial truce between the opposing sides of that war. Here they are represented by Germany, France and Scotland. And to get an idea of animosity between the countries the film opens with three boys, each telling a little poem about how their enemy is evil, inhuman and must be wiped from the face of the earth.
Once into the film we are introduced to the three main characters as they hear about the outbreak of the war; Sprink is an opera singer who is about to go onstage before the performance is interupted. Jonathan and Palmer are at church when Jonathan’s brother comes rushing in with the good news that war has been declared, finally they’ll have something to do. Liuetenant Audbert is waiting for news from his pregnant wife, she ends up behind German lines and he cannot get in contact with her. In this film Carion focuses on one small length of the front, where the Scottish and French face their German enemies. And to get around the issue of ridiculous accents each person uses their own language.
Of all wars, World War I was probably the most pointless. And we get our battle scene, dirt flying men dying, the shells impacting.
But it is Christmas eve, and Anna Sorensen has arranged for her love, Sprink to come from the front and sing for the Kronprinz, some German/Prussian noble I’m guessing. Sing he does, and then returns to the front where he is serving as a private to sing for the other German soldiers, acompanied by Anna. While there they hear the Scottish bagpipes from the other side, and soon they are all singing along. Eventually the three officers meet up in no-man’s land and arrange for a truce, just for christmas eve. Then they agree to return bodies, and bury them. They even have a mass and later a game of football.
What this film does really well is convey how pointless the war is. How the senior officers really didn’t know how to fight it, and how the men in the trenches suffered. Yes it is sentimental, but it never goes overboard, and there are plenty of flashes of humour to lighten the mood on occasion.
The one thing that did make me blink however was the song the Scots sang, called I’m Dreaming of Home, the first line of it is very very similar to the first line of Amhrá¡n na bhFiann (Irish Anthem). You can hear it if you go to the media section of the official site, which although heavily dependent on flash is still worth a look around.
Official site | IMDb site | Film Ireland’s review | Scotm | The Pensieve (spoilers) | superciliousness
- made oh so clear by the fashionable practice of filming slower so we get to see every last particle fly into the air ↩