Joyeux Noël: A Film Discussion Guide
January 9, 2010 3 Comments
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- What is the message of this film? Support your answer.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Is it significant that the Horstmayer is Jewish? Briefly explain your answer.
- 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”?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Is there a central character in this film? Explain your answer.
- Would you agree that this is a “Christmas movie”? Explain your answer.
- Would you have any interest in seeing this film without subtitles? Explain your answer.