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2005 film depicting the Real Life Christmas Truce of 1914, in the first year of World War 1.
The film begins with French, English and German boys reciting xenophobic, jingoistic poems:
French boy: Child, upon these maps do heed this black stain to be effaced
Omitting it, you would proceed yet better it in red to trace
Later, whatever may come to pass promise there to go you must to fetch the children of Alsace
Reaching out their arms to us
May in our fondest France Hope's green saplings to branch
And in you, dear child, flower
Grow, grow, France awaits its hour.
British boy: To rid the map of every trace
Of Germany and of the Hun
We must exterminate that race
We must not leave a single one
Heed not their children's cries
Best slay all now, the women, too
Or else someday again they'll rise
Which if they're dead, they cannot do.
German boy: We have one and only enemy
Who digs the grave of Germany
Its heart replete with hatred, gall and envy
We have one and only enemy
The villain raises its murderous hand
Its name, you know, is England.
Hearing such words from the mouths of children is of course horrible, explicitly showing us how the war developed on ethnic and national rivalries or hatred. The film proceeds, introducing us to its British, French and German characters who join up as the war breaks out. Two brothers from Scotland, along with their priest who joins as a chaplain, a Frenchman and a German actor who is engaged to a Dane, reluctant to see him go. The characters are sent to the Western Front and face each other in the trenches. Jonathan, the young Scot, loses his brother, which devastates him.
On Christmas Eve, all sides decide to call a truce, with the Scottish chaplain presiding over a service. They begin to see how their enemies are not monsters, but human beings who also feel they are serving their countries. News of the fraternization across lines begins to leak out, with the British military shown censoring the letters home. The fraternization spreads, with the commanders worried that it could hamper the war effort.
The next day they begin fighting again, with Jonathan gunning down a German after the rest would not fire on him. The French officer is rebuked by his General for the fraternization, while the Germans are sent to the Eastern Front. At the end, a Scots Catholic bishop preaches to new Scottish Highlander troops, giving them an ultra-patriotic bloodthirsty message of being on a "crusade" against the inhuman Germans. At this the Scottish chaplain who came over with the brothers turns away in dismay.
- Badass Preacher: While he was as a stretcher bearer and not a soldier...the priest was undeniably Badass. He went into no man's land twice to save someone's life without a thought.
- Truth in Television: Stretcher bearers often were the most badass men of the unit and often suffered the highest casulties because their job was to take injured men out of battle to the back line for treatment. While it was illegal to intentionally fire on them they carried no weapons and were often victims of artillery fire.
- Bittersweet Ending: Every unit is reprimanded for their fraternization and are all split up to fight in new areas, but the Germans singing in the train at the and proves that they will never forget the humanity they showed their enemies.
- Cold Sniper: Jonathan
- Chekhov's Gun: The Clock, the French Lieutenant's sketchbook, & the song the Scots taught the Germans.
- Dressing as the Enemy: The French Lieutenant's orderly
- Cute Kitten: The Germans and the French use a cat to send messages back and fourth across the lines.
- Foreshadowing: Johnathan's frequent Traitor Shots and Sanity Slippage shots make it all the more logical that he's the one who guns down the French Lieutenant's orderly.
- Friendly Enemy / Go-Karting with Bowser: Sort of the whole point.
- Fridge Horror: The German Lieutenant is Jewish. It is likely that his wife is too, along with being French. If he survives into Nazi-era...
- The cat getting arrested for carrying a message between two sides. This incident was based on a true story, where the cat was executed for the deed.
- Got Volunteered: Sprink mentions this specifically but most of the other soldiers as well.
- Heel Realization: The French Lieutenant when he tells his father "I feel closer to these 'monsters' than any man who says death to krauts!" over a stuffed turkey."
- Heroic BSOD: Jonathan when his brother dies.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Bridget von Hammersmark and Fredrick Zoller sharing the screen once more.
- Jonathan's brother William is Private Babe Heffron.
- Insignia Rip Off Ritual: Subverted. The Kronprinz just pokes his cane at it.
- Not So Different: People on all sides show this as they celebrate the holidays together.
- In a more frightening example, the bishop toward the end is an anti-German bigot, who advises that all be killed "because they are different". For someone who's anti-German, that rhetoric sounds awfully similar to what many Germans will be saying several years from then....
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: One of these is given to each of the commanders of each army. Not a single one of 'em does anything but show how foolish and out of touch the high command is, and how messed up the war, and by extension all war, is.
- Pet the Dog: One of the figures of high command, though (the French Lieutenant's father), ends up accepting that he and his son's view differ on the matter and, when learning that he has a grandson now, says "Let's both try to survive the war for his sake."
- Reassigned to Antarctica: When word gets out, the French, German and Scottish soldiers are split up and sent elsewhere.
- The Germans aren't just sent elsewhere, they're sent to the Eastern Front, which had outrageously high fatality rates.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Many said the sermon by the Scots Catholic bishop was "unreal" and "over the top." In fact it was taken from a real sermon, though by an Anglican bishop in Westminster Abbey. That actually makes it worse, as far more heard it. Here is the sermon, read it and weep:
Bishop: "Christ our Lord said, 'Think not that I come to bring peace on earth. I come not to bring peace, but a sword.' The Gospel according to St. Matthew. Well, my brethren, the sword of the Lord is in your hands. You are the very defenders of civilization itself. The forces of good against the forces of evil. For this war is indeed a crusade! A holy war to save the freedom of the world. In truth I tell you: the Germans do not act like us, neither do they think like us, for they are not, like us, children of God. Are those who shell cities populated only by civilians the children of God? Are those who advanced armed hiding behind women and children the children of God? With God's help, you must kill the Germans, good or bad, young or old. Kill every one of them so that it won't have to be done again. The Lord be with you."
All: "And also with you."
Bishop: "May God Almighty bless you. The Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen."
- Screw Destiny: More of a "screw the church," but the Scottish priest definitely has this after he overhears the above sermon, leaving his cross on a stand as he walks out the door.
- Screw the War, We're Partying: A heartwarming example.
- Sinister Minister: The aforementioned bishop.
- That's an Order: Several times.
- Truce Zone
- Unfriendly Fire
- War Is Hell