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With the advent of World War I, Europe is thrown into a brutal and vicious chaos as men are forced to kill or be killed. While blood soaks the battlefield as Christmas approaches, the men in the trenches of the Western Front face a transformation, however fleeting, toward peace and goodwill. Against all odds, four unlikely individuals from opposing sides (Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis) bond during this bloodless respite to experience the hope and goodness in humanity.
When his wife dies, Lassefar (Max von Sydow) takes his 12-year-old son, Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard), from their home in Sweden to Denmark in search of a better life. Signing on as laborers at a large farm, father and son undergo numerous trials, including prejudice against immigrants and run-ins with those more powerful than themselves in both the physical and the social sense. Over the course of a year, young Pelle learns what it takes to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world.