When Peace Breaks Out
I saw the Oscar nominated Joyeax Noel last night.
This is most definitely not a Christmas Movie.
It is a movie about war and the remarkable silliness of Nationalism that still pervades the consciousness of most of the earthlings on this planet, despite our clear need to work together to preserve our climate, our declining resources, our starving brethren, and those who would be destroyed in the name of our nations, our gods, or our love of power.
Here is Roger Ebert:
"On Christmas Eve of 1914, a remarkable event took place in the trenches where the Germans faced the British and the French. There was a spontaneous cease-fire, as the troops on both sides laid down their weapons and observed the birth of the savior in whose name they were killing each other.
The irony of this gesture is made clear in the opening scenes of "Joyeux Noel," in which schoolchildren of the three nations sing with angelic fervor, each in their own language, about the necessity of wiping the enemy from the face of the earth.
The Christmas Eve truce actually happened, although not on quite the scale director Christian Carion suggests in his film, which was nominated for the foreign film Oscar this year.
He is accurate, however, in depicting the aftermath: Officers and troops were punished for fraternizing with the enemy in wartime. A priest who celebrated mass in No Man's Land is savagely criticized by his bishop, who believes the patriotic task of the clergy is to urge the troops into battle and reconcile them to death.
The trench warfare of World War I was a species of hell unlike the agonies of any other war, before or after. The enemies were dug in within earshot of each other, and troops were periodically ordered over the top so that most of them could be mowed down by machinegun fire. They were being ordered to stand up, run forward and be shot to death.
And they did it. "
Having just come back from an unified Europe, just 90 years after this war, and just 60 years since the one that followed it, the scenes of the French Lt. facing his German counterpart who then reveals that he has a French wife became particularly surreal.
The idea that these people were murdering each other in the recent geologic blink of an eye seems as surreal as the art their artists produced during the same period.
But it is no more surreal than today, as we watch our mass media whip their populations into a frenzy of fear and paranoia in order to justify the wholesale murder and destruction of other cultures and peoples.
But this movie shows an angle that is rarely shown in our war movies.
It shows that the natural nature of man is Peace.
It takes lots of programming, lots of flag wagging, lots of mornings in school, dutifully reciting your allegiance to a flag and idea that separates you from your fellow brothers and sisters on this planet to overwhelm your natural nature to be peaceful.
It takes lots of preachers preaching hate and that god is on your side.
It takes lots of leaders talking fear and loss,
and honor and duty.
It takes lots of news anchors talking shock and awe.
And it takes lots of movies, books, and history glorifying the whole affair.
This movie is not one of those kind of movies.
This movie leads its viewer towards a transnational view of earth.
As we drove away from the theatre,
I remembered the scene where the three agreed to bury their dead.
I remarked that the roots of war grow in the dirt of nationalism.
My girl friend argued a little,
but not for very long.
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