Silent Night is a movie about another Christmas truce in WWII involving three Germans and three Americans trapped in a woman’s cabin in the Ardennes forest. She and her son went to the remote cabin to shelter the little boy from bombings in the city. Three American soldiers stumbled upon her cabin, separated from their unit. One of the three is injured, so they stay in a tense standoff with her since she is German, the enemy. Later, three German soldiers come across the cabin too. The Americans try to make them surrender, one using a fake gun and the other inside shouting, pretending there are more men than there are. The Germans fall for the ruse and surrender and go inside. However, the woman makes all of them leave their guns outside, saying she does not tolerate weapons in her home. Inside, they introduce themselves. One is an American private and sergeant. The Germans have a lieutenant and two men, one only 15 years old. The woman and her son both speak fluent English, so they agree to speak English to avoid confusion. Only the young German private cannot speak any English. They all agree to a tense truce, until the next morning. Things get edgy between the American and the German lieutenant. The German lieutenant also questions the woman, now known as Elizabeth as to her loyalties. She replies that she felt morally obliged to help the American soldiers too. That evening, she convinces each side to sit down for a Christmas eve meal and they all contribute to the feast. They all soften up a bit towards one another and start to open up.
However, the mood once again switches back to tense when the German lieutenant talks about his family’s military legacy, and the honor of war. Elizabeth angrily confides why she hates war and weapons so much. Her own father, in WWI came back from the war with his face badly disfigured. He turned to drink and later killed himself when she was only 12, her son’s age. She also lost her eldest son at Stalingrad. The American solider tries to lighten the mood again with dessert, but both Elizabeth and the lieutenant are on edge. Later when they clear the table, the Lieutenant threatens Elizabeth by alluding to the fact that her son is not in the Hitler youth and didn’t have call up papers. She replies that she would not lose yet another son, and her husband is also missing. The American soldier hands out gifts and everyone decorates a small tree for Christmas. While he is handing out the presents, the German lieutenant notices he took an iron cross and is enraged. He shouts that one should only take things like cigarettes from fallen soldiers, but never their medals as it is highly dishonorable. He and the American come to blows over it and the injured American comes out of his room with a gun, not knowing about the truce. The other American shoves him to the ground, but then the German picks it up and aims it at the American. Elizabeth however bravely intervenes and convinces him to honor the truce. He goes off to the corner and tearfully tells the American that his father was a soldier and his body was thrown down and stripped of all his medals. The issue is extremely personal to him. The American, now realizing how hurtful it was, gives him back the medal. All seems to be forgiven and they all go to bed.
The next morning, an American MP discovers the cabin, and believes the Americans captured the Germans. The American explains the truce and the MP is incredulous. In a
twist, however, the american MP speaks German and tells the Germans to lower their hands and grab their weapons. He was actually a German infiltrator from the SS! He orders the Americans to be shot, and when Elizabeth intervenes, he knocks her down and is ready to shoot her. The German lieutenant saves her though, but knocking the SS man unconscious. The film ends with all of them leaving, to return to war. The Americans have the SS man as a prisoner, and the German lieutenant tells the young German private to go with the Americans, as both sides feel he’s too young to fight any longer. They try to get the lieutenant to join too, but he feels honor bound to fight for his side. However, they all part friends.
I loved the film because it showed the human side of all of the soldiers. The Americans were not brutal and cruel to their German hosts, and the Germans were not portrayed so much as “Nazis” than fellow soldiers. I think the historical feel was right, and I like how the situation was handled. Not too much buddy-buddy to be unrealistic, but also each side got to show their humanity. I also liked the back stories on a lot of the characters, to also let you make that human connection, and see the reasons behind their actions. Also, the plot development was good and did not become monotonous, like many other war films I’ve seen, which were mostly fighting, resting and fighting in an endless cycle. I also liked that they toned down the violence a ton compared to other war movies involving blood and guts all the time. No gory scenes. There was some violence, but only for tense moments, but no one gets shot or injured at all. Due to those scenes alone, and some of the sad backstories, I’d say the movie is best for older kids and teens. I wouldn’t say the movie was anti- war, but pro- peace.
I think Elizabeth’s character was profound in that she reminded everyone that they were all human and deserved a peaceful world. Her backstory about her experience with her own father’s war experience I believe was the reason why she was so anti-war. Also, losing her eldest son and husband only further embittered her to war. I think she felt that the young German private reminded her of her son who she lost. I think she showed a true strength of character by standing up to both sides, when they could have shot or overpowered her. Especially interacting with the German lieutenant, she did not give in to his threats and implications that she was a traitor. She even got directly in his line of fire to defend the Americans, and when he was ordered to shoot the Americans, she spoke up for him, urging him not to do it, getting herself in harm’s way yet again. She is just as brave as the soldiers were, only in her immense moral courage. The German lieutenant acts as a sort of foil for her, clashing with her the most. At first, he seems like he would be the bad guy, all staunch and militant. He rubbed the Americans the wrong way and didn’t settle in like the rest. He threatened Elizabeth and even her son felt uncomfortable around him. This seemed confirmed when he flew into a rage over the medal, but it also produced a change of heart. Of all the characters, he was the only one to cry. I thought it would be Elizabeth or her son, but no, it was him. This is significant because he seems like the last of all of them to get emotional. The incident revealed even he was human, and had deep personal reasons for acting as he did. It showed how deeply he feels about honor in war. His choice to also go back to war instead of taking the easy way out by being the American’s prisoner also showed his sense of true honor. He was not the Nazi criminal, but a soldier concerned with honor and bravery despite his Nazi leanings. He was not the emotionless robot that Nazi bad-guys are portrayed as, but human. This was finally proven when he saved Elizabeth’s life.
Overall, I loved the character development and plot. The movie really drove home the message of shared humanity in war and the yearning for peace. Overarching themes seem to be about honor in war and moral courage too. The German lieutenant always stressed about what was the honorable thing to do. Also, moral courage played a huge roll with Elizabeth as she defied everyone by helping both sides. She was also the first to see their humanity. In the end, they all saw each other as fellow soldiers, albeit being on different sides. Both sides went on to fight with honor, and humanity. It was truly a touching movie about humanity in times of war. I also liked the implied distinction between the Wehrmacht soldiers portrayed in there, and the SS man being the real bad guy. Overall, great movie with poignant messages!