Silent Night (2002) Christmas in War Movies I

This review is part of a sequence of reviews of war movies that have Christmas as their main theme. There are many war movies in which a part takes place during Christmas or in which it is evoked but that are not the ones I’d like to focus on. I want to focus on those that really center on it.

The first one I’m reviewing is, as you can see, Silent Night, A  Midnight Clear, Joyeux Noël and maybe one or two older ones will follow.

The TV drama Silent Night is based on true facts. It is set on Christmas Eve 1944, just after the Battle of the Bulge. A mother and her young son are seeking refuge in the family’s hunting lodge in the middle of the Ardennes Forest. They walk through the war-torn woods, approach the front line and pass dead bodies, troops of soldiers and tanks.

They have just arrived at the lodge when two American soldiers arrive, carrying one of their wounded. The woman lets them stay reluctantly but makes them leave their weapons in front of the house. Elisabeth Vincken (Linda Hamilton) is not what you would call a patriot. She has lost her eldest son at Stalingrad, her husband is probably dead as well and the youngest, Fritz, would like to join the Hitler Youth which she wants to prevent at all costs.

While they are looking after the badly wounded soldier, a group of three German soldiers arrives at the hut and the encounter almost ends in mutual shooting. Elisabeth is a very strong woman, very determined and persuasive. After some initial discussions and negotiations they agree to leave their weapons behind, enter the house and spend the night there in peace.

I don’t think that anyone present during this Christmas dinner was likely to ever forget it. It would certainly be the most memorable Christmas of their lives. They sit around the table, share their food and stories, talk about the way in which this and the former war affected them. Still,  tensions do not subside completely. The German lieutenant has a particularly hard time to stay peaceful. He is bitter and aggressive, however, after a moment of escalation, he starts to see how absurd this all is and gives in as well. There is a final test that will show if these men have truly become friends in one evening. And if so, will they stay friends later on?

One  thing, as often, that truly bothered me were the bad accents. Americans speaking German with heavy American accents and then fake English accents. But cheer up, I have been assured that it doesn’t bother you if you don’t speak German.

The movie has a few very sentimental moments but it is overall not bad at all, no it is quite a pleasant movie that achieves to capture the spirit of Christmas. Recommended Sunday afternoon viewing with loads of snow, drama and some genuinely heartfelt moments.

I also included Silent Night in my update Children in War Movies List.

Children in War Movies: A List

In this post I would like to focus on war  movies in which children have leading roles and are not just supporting actors like in The Hurt Locker to name but one example.

There are many movies whose sole focus are children. They come from different countries, show different conflicts and times but they have one thing in common: they are all good, very good or outstanding. This is quite remarkable. It is as if those film directors who aim for entertainment only would shy away from showing children in war movies. All the movies listed below are very different in tone. Some are light and almost playful, like Hope and Glory, some are depressing and raw like Come and See, others have the quality of a fairytale like Pan´s Labyrinth.

I am sure my list is not exhaustive. If you know of any others, let me know. I will try and review most of them in later posts,  like I already did with Hope and Glory (see post), Welcome to Sarajevo (link to post), The Children of Huang Shi (see post) and Savior (see post). I am stating the name and the year and country in brackets. The conflict and where the war takes place follow behind. I did include a few movies with teenagers in it like The Bridge or Napola, but most of the others focus on much smaller children. I did also  include Savior as the newborn is central to the story.

I am sure you will discover many you did not know yet as I did.

The Drum (GB, 1938): India

Mrs Miniver (US 1942): WWII, British Homefront

Since You Went Away (US, 1944): WWII, American Homefront (here is my review)

Roma, Città Aperta aka Rome, Open City (Italy, 1945): WWII, Italy

Kim (US, 1950): India

Forbidden Games aka Jeux interdits (1952, France): WWII, France

The Bridge aka Die Brücke (1959, Germany): WWII, Germany

Two Women aka La ciociara (1960, Italy/France): WWII, Italy

Ivan’s Childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962, Soviet Union): WWII, Russia

Hornet´s Nest (1970, USA): WWII, Italy

Lacombe Lucien (1974, France): WWII, France

The Tin Drum aka Die Blechtrommel (Germany, 1979): WWII, Germany

Hope and Glory (1987, UK): WWII, Blitz  (Here is my review)

Empire of the Sun (1987, USA) : Chinese-Japanese War WWII

Au-revoir les enfants aka Goodbye, Children (1987, France/Germany): WWII, Holocaust,France

Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988, Japan): WWII, Japan. Anime. (See my post)

Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review)

Come and See aka Idi i smotri(1985, Soviet Union): WWII, Byelorussia

The Ogre aka Der Unhold (1996, France/Germany/UK): WWII, Nazi Germany

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997, USA) : Bosnia

Life is beautiful aka La vita è bella (1997, Italy): WWII, Holocaust (see post on La vita è bella)

Savior (1998, USA ): Bosnia

Silent Night (2002, USA): WWII, Germany (see my post on Silent Night)

Innocent Voices aka Voces inocentes (2004, Mexico/USA/Puerto Rico): El Salvador (see my post on Innocent Voices)

Turtles can fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004, Iran/France/Iraq): Iraq

Before the Fall aka Napola (2004, Germany): WWII, Germany (see my review of NaPola)

Pan´s Labyrinth aka El laberinto del fauno (2006, Spain): WWII Franco´s Spain

Under the Bombs aka Sous les Bombes (2007, France/Lebanon): 2006, Lebanon (see my review of Under the Bombs)

Miracle at St. Anna (2008, US): WWII, Italy (here is my review)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/USA): WWII, Holocaust (see my review)

Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008, Australia, China, Germany, USA): Japanese occupation of China

Winter in Wartime aka Oorlogswinter (2008, Netherlans, Belgium): WWII, occupied Hollad in Winter, 1945 (here is the link to my post)

The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010, Russia): WWII, Russia 1941. Germans attack the Brest Fortress (here is the link to my post).

The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review)

This list is being updated regularly.