Merry Christmas

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

The Christmas truce that broke out on the Western Front in 1914 was a miracle that temporarily repudiated the horrors of the first world war, and yet was also part and parcel of the old rules which partly - and grotesquely - governed that conflict, the remnants of a time when war was still imagined to be glorious and dangerous sport. On Christmas Eve, the Germans, British and French troops laid down their arms, exchanged gifts, sang carols and played football. Corporal Adolf Hitler did not approve, and neither did Major Winston Churchill. It wasn't long before the men's livid commanding officers clamped down on all fraternisation.
The recent vivid obituaries for 109-year-old Scot Alfred Anderson, the last person to remember the truce, proved how stunningly powerful and poignant this event is for us in 2005. Christian Carion's movie is a heartfelt and highminded attempt to transfer this episode to the screen, and this is achieved through a stately choreography of three national forces. It is a choreography that, however, spreads a little more of the blame away from the Germans in the direction of the Anglo-Saxons.
The Germans are represented by Daniel Brühl as a martinet officer, deeply suspicious of a liberal conscript private, a certain Sprink, played by the intense-eyed Benno Fürmann. He is a professional singer in civilian life who has a passionate relationship with the beautiful Danish soprano Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger), and it is her unofficial, morale-raising visit to the front which is imagined to be the spark that ignites the sensational outbreak of peace. The French are led by Audebert (Guillaume Canet), a decent man heartsick of war. The British side are in fact Scottish: Gary Lewis plays Palmer, a Red Cross stretcher-bearer and unofficial padre, who conducts an impromptu service in no-man's-land that unites the soldiers of three Christian nations.
The English don't come out of this at all well, incidentally. They are conspicuous not precisely by their absence, but in the presence of two spectacularly unsympathetic characters. There is a pompous blithering Englishman commanding his Jocks, and an English bishop - an Arctic performance from Ian Richardson - who reproves Palmer for heterodoxy and insubordination and then conducts a service of his own, giving a blood-curdling cry for the extermination of Germans, combatants and non-combatants alike, claiming that it is God's will. If Carion is hinting subtextually that the truce was a prototypical communautaire partnership of European nations, then this is a party to which the English do not appear to be invited.
The spontaneous, scattered phenomenon that lasted until Easter is here simplified and clarified into a single dramatic event. The Scots, French and German leaders meet in the middle of the battlefield - dead bodies preserved grimly by the deep and crisp and even snow lying round about - and establish their improvised rules for informal decency, reaching an understanding about giving proper burials to the fallen. Each side has a sympathetic leader on the ground, and a cold, heartless commander one link above in the chain of command. The Scots' soldiers are good-natured with no hatred of the enemy, the French likewise; even Brühl turns out to be Jewish with a French wife, well acquainted with Paris and claiming to recognise Audebert's wife from a pencil sketch. As for the pampered high-ups way behind the lines, the Germans have their absurd, strutting Crown Prince; the Scots have their thin-lipped Englishman; but the French have a decided advantage in that their major-general, though ferociously disapproving of everything that goes on, is through a playful plot-twist made to seem as human as anyone else. If this war is about who is the most decent, the French are very much the winners.
What the movie plays down almost to vanishing point is whether or not these troops are actually anti-war. The truce was supposed to have begun not merely with carols but cries of "No more war!" These are sentiments that have been refined away in Carion's version, replaced with passionate, doomed, but decidedly apolitical romanticism. The soul of the uprising resides in Anna and Sprink, and the truce emerges almost from their love itself, which finds expression in song. After it is all over, they enjoy a frankly absurd night of quasi-wedded bliss under a blanket in a dugout - at which stage this very clean-looking trench assumes the modest comforts of a two-star hotel - before making a plea for prisoner status with the French side.
It is at these moments that the movie's weight of good intentions and even moral equivalence puts it in danger of sinking into the mud. Yet it is strongly and competently told, and the poignancy of warriors stricken by the sound of Stille Nacht floating across the trenches still has the power to move.

attempt- próba, usiłowanie
blither- łobuz, drań, łobuzować
blood-curdling- mrożący krew w żyłach
clamp down- powstrzymywać, opanowywać
communautaire- wspólny, komunalny
conspicuous- rzucający się w oczy
decency- zachowanie form, przyzwoitość
doomed- skazany, potępiony
dugout- schron, ziemianka
equivalence- równoważność, ekwiwalencja
ferociously- zażarcie, dziko
highminded- o wysokich standardach moralnych
high-up- ważniak, gruba ryba
ignite- zapalać się, zapłonąć
impromptu- zaimprowizowany; improwizując
livid- siny; wściekły
martinet- służbista, pedant
obituary- nekrolog
pamper- rozpieszczać,pobłażać
passionate- namiętny, żarliwy
poignancy- boleść
poignant- przejmujący, dotkliwy
refine away- oczyścić
remnant- pozostałość, resztka
reprove- ganić, karcić
repudiate- wypierać się, nie uznawać, odmawiać
scattered- rozproszony
stretcher-bearer- sanitariusz
strutting- nadęty
temporarily- czasowo
truce- rozejm, zawieszenie broni
vanishing point- punkt zniknięcia


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