Christmas, 1914. In the trenches, we see the Scots, French and Germans beginning to celebrate in their own way. Singing in one trench inspires more in the opposing one, and before long, an unauthorized truce has broken out, and the enemy combatants are marking Christmas together. The film concentrates on a handful of characters who play a pivotal role in the truce in this particular section of the trenches, in particular the local commanding officers.
This was one of the most start…ing incidents from that war, one that (as we see in the film), the brass was completely appalled by and did all in their power to make sure it was not repeated. The film is therefore almost unbearably poignant, but in the spirit of the deeply humanist moment it records, is not without optimism, even as it is very conscious of taking place in the early days of one of the most savage periods in human history.
The placement of the sound effects is superb. This is generally a fairly quiet film, but the surround kicks in with a vengeance during the scenes of battle and, especially, artillery barrage (when the results are truly thunderous). Once in a while there’s a bit of buzz on the dialogue, but otherwise the soundtrack is a fine piece of work, and the music (and singing, which plays a very big part) sounds excellent.
The picture is good, but not terrific. Grain is generally minimal, but it does become rather noticeable in a couple of instances. The colours are good, with fine contrasts, blacks and flesh tones. But edge enhancement is sometimes quite noticeable. The problems aren’t enough to detract from one’s enjoyment of the film, but one could wish for something a bit more pristine.
The (subtitled) commentary track by director Christian Carion and one of the producers is articulate and deeply informative, concerned as much with history as with the making of the film. This same balance is present on Disc 2, where there is a variety of documentaries (including a brief forward, a piece on the music, one on the making of the film, and an interview with Carion). Here too is a scored montage of stills, some deleted scenes (with non-optional commentary), and the theatrical trailer. A couple of other trailers flesh out Disc 1.
A marvellous, beautiful, heartbreaking film. Required viewing.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Music Documentary
- Making-of Documentary
- Interview with Director
- Still Gallery
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer