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Reflecting history on a film set

Posted at 1:18 PM on March 24, 2006 by Euan Kerr (2 Comments)

Joyeux Noel" director Christian Carion " faced some novel logistical problems in making the movie.

First of all, the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce in the trenches that he wanted to tell had been hushed up in France for decades. The French military authorities still regarded the time when French, British, and German troops had laid down their arms to celebrate Christmas together as an act of rebellion.

When Carion asked permission to use a military base in France which was ideal to shoot the film, he says the officer in charge refused because he did not want to aid in spreading the story.

So Carion shot the movie in Romania. This was where another set of logistical problems came into play. He essentially had three casts: French, Scots, and German.

They all arrived at the same time, but Carion says he deliberately kept them separate for the first few days as he shot the battle scenes for early in the film. The actors all ate at tables with their compatriots. The special effects bombs burst and the bullets flew, but the actors only saw each other in the distance.

When the battle was done Carion says he had the caterers set up a long line of tables halfway between the trenches. He then invited the actors to come eat together. That, he says, was a very special moment, which formed the basis for the rest of the relationships for the rest of the film.

Now with the film being shown around the world and having garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film, Carion says he is enjoying what he calls revenge as he gets to tell the story of the Christmas Truce.

Comments (2)

You might want to check out folksinger John McCutcheon's 1991Rounder Records (c-11555) release WATER FROM ANOTHER TIME. He composed "Christmas in the Trenches" telling the same story from an English soldiers' experience, Francis Tolliver. In concert John introduces the song with his own experience of meeting survivors of that Christmas truce at one of his performances in Canada I think.
I kept wanting to interrupt Carion as he spoke of the "secret event" to say I'd teared up 15 yrs ago at the musical telling of the tale. RQ

Posted by Rita Quigley | March 25, 2006 12:46 PM

Yes, that is one of the strange things about this story; it was not kept quiet everywhere. I heard the story repeatedly while I was growing up in Scotland. When a book came out here a couple of years ago about the truce, I was really surprised to hear the story wasn't widely known in the US. Carion's story about the French military hushing the whole thing was even more astonishing. I'll make sure to check out the song. Thanks.

Posted by Euan Kerr | March 27, 2006 9:07 AM

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