This movie, for me, is like “Dogpound shuffle”, a gem almost completely unknown generally. A movie that I saw on TV on a delightful channel called Hallmark (which stopped being aired long time back) way back in middle school and a movie that I craved seeing ever since. Internet finally came to my rescue and I was finally able to get it on my hard drive…
There is a certain appeal about movies that play out in a room or a house and dont use outside locales (the best case in point being “The Man from Earth”
). That is because you have to rely on intelligent and taut scripting and need to have completely fleshed out characters to hold attention. You more or less rely completely on conversation to make the story.
Right from the first frame, you realize that this is going to be a dramatic movie. The scene of Elisabeth Vincken (Linda Hamilton) trudging on the snowy wastes of a forest tugging along her son Fritz Vincken (the narrator), the landscape littered with wrecked tanks and dead soldiers, makes you take notice…
It is 1944 and Elisabeth Vincken is a German mother with a young son who goes upto the family log cabin in the forest, which you realize is the theatre of the Battle of the Bulge, ostensibly to get to a safer place. But she has a deeper reason, which is revealed later…
The drama starts when their cabin is invaded first by three American soldiers, one of whom is seriously injured, followed soon after by three Germans. Events take such a turn (which it would be a spoiler to reveal!) that Elisabeth comes into a position where she is able to broker a temporary truce between the two parties so that they l
eave their weapons outside. It is naturally an absurd position to be in, in the middle of World War II and the soldiers are naturally incredulous at the situation but as it happens, it is something that they decide to abide by…for the moment…and they settle down to celebrate a very unusual Christmas
This is when the movie really comes into its own. The characters are so life-like that you begin to understand the personalities of each within a few minutes. The situations are realistic and makes the story move along at a clip. Mutual suspicion (after all you are supposed to be killing each other!!!) slowly starts turning into curiosity and later even grudging warmth.
The basic attraction about the movie cannot be understood unless the movie is watched since its all in the dialogues and the reactions of the different characters thrown together in this unusual situation. The
atmosphere is always laden with taut tension (with the threat of things getting out of hand any time) and nervous camaraderie as everyone, over the course of the night, begins to understand a little bit of the other.
The whole story is about something very basic about human nature – we are as easy to be at each others throat as to be sitting around a table eating together, a paradox. And this simple fact is beautifully captured. At the end, after a dramatic ending, you wonder whether thats not the best way to defuse all wars – make them all sit around a table for dinner!! And yes, I loved the ending – completely went with what you would have expected from each of the characters.
By the way, if you were wondering at the outlandish situation (as i did), you would be pleasantly surprised to know that it is in fact a completely true story
!!! This is one of those “happens only during wars” kind of story…and the fact that it is true makes it all the more compelling.
This is one gem of a movie that is difficult to find but it is one that is for keeps. Somehow my movie library seems complete with this…
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