Joyeux Noël: A Film Discussion Guide

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) (France, 2005); directed by Christian Carion

In an earlier post, I recommended the film Joyeux Noël. The DVD of this wonderful foreign film can be viewed with English subtitles. Here are the discussion questions I’ve used recently in my course on Faith, Film and Philosophy:

  1. Many film critics, even some who give it high marks, say this film is “sentimental.” What do you think they mean by that? What evidence could be cited in support of the claim that the film is sentimental?
  2. Audebert, the French Lieutenant, draws something he’s seen on the wall of his quarters. What does he draw? Why does he draw this? Does this have any significance for the film as a whole? Explain your answer.
  3. Is it reasonable to the think of the alarm clock as a character in the film? Explain the role(s) played by this clock throughout the film.
  4. Why does Anna Sörensen say to the German officer, “Our minutes our longer than yours”? What does she mean? Does her statement have any larger significance for the film?
  5. Father Palmer is scolded by a British General from the back line. He admonishes the priest, “You’re supposed to save lives, not endanger them” (or something like that). Has Father Palmer actually saved lives? Would the General agree? Explain your answer.
  6. What is the message of this film? Support your answer.
  7. There’s a priest and a bishop, and many prayers are said. Mass is observed by most of the soldiers from all sides. Is this a religious film? What view of faith or religion does the film seem to affirm? Defend your answers.
  8. Briefly describe a scene that was moving to you or spoke to you. What did you feel while watching this scene? Do you think the director intended for you to have that feeling at that point in the film? Explain your answer.
  9. When German Lieutenant Horstmayer sends Sprink, the male tenor, back to the city for one night, he tells the musician, “Artists like you are a dead loss.” What does he mean by this? What does Sprink believe he can do for the soldiers on the front line? Do you think Horstmayer changes his mind at any time during the film? What does this film “say” about the value of the arts? Do you agree?
  10. Is it significant that the Horstmayer is Jewish? Briefly explain your answer.
  11. Does the Bishop who reprimands Father Palmer near the end really believe the things he says to the priest, and the things he says in his prayer and admonition before the soldiers? How did you feel hearing him say these things? What would you say to a person who says, “I can’t accept Christianity because of people like him”?
  12. Why does the priest hang up the wooden cross he was wearing and leave the room? What will he do now that he’s being sent back to his parish in Scotland?
  13. When does Audebert learn that he has a newborn son? At that moment he begins to cry. Is he happy? Is he sad? Is he both happy and sad? How is that possible?
  14. In the end we learn that the French General, who has been so attentive to Audebert’s military career, is Audebert’s father. Is this at all startling? Does it make any difference to the meaning of the movie that they are father and son?
  15. Is there a central character in this film? Explain your answer.
  16. Would you agree that this is a “Christmas movie”? Explain your answer.
  17. Would you have any interest in seeing this film without subtitles? Explain your answer.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking.

3 Responses to Joyeux Noël: A Film Discussion Guide

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Thank you, Brad!

  2. Nice looking blog!

  3. Edward T. Babinski says:

    The cease fire only took place in some parts of the front, correct?

    I think it’s interesting that Europe, the seat of Catholicism and Protestantism, invented steel, invented far-sailing ships, invented powerful guns, carried deadly germs, and then went round the world enslaving people for money and pounding their religion into them, and then came back home with the wealth of continents, and built a tremendous civilization, including the most deadly weapons on earth and then began using them against each other in World Wars, two of them.

    How does this prove Christianity is superior? Church going Christians all through Europe gassing each other to death. Even in the Second World War, Mussolini was no atheist, neither was Hitler, nor Hirohito. In fact Hitler praised God and country and raged against the degradation of atheists and atheism, and the Nazi party started in a highly Catholic part of Germany, many founding members were Catholic. And Hitler was elected mainly by votes from common people who lived outside the cities. Inside the cities the votes he rec’d were even with other candidates. Christian elected Hitler to power, after praying no doubt, going to church each week.

    I might add that while Christians were tearing each other apart in WW1, during the last year of that war, that’s when the Russian Revolution took place that dethroned the Czar.

    And only after the Shinto Emperor led country of Japan had invaded China, and committed numerous atrocities, decimating China, did the Chinese people turn to communism rather than to the long hated Western colonizing Christian powers.

    History works that way. Give and take.

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