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Maria V. Gallagher reviews a film that tells the story behind a well-known Christmas carol.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


I have always been fascinated with the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” It is one of those songs where the lyrics correspond with the music in a most stirring way.

But I had never known the actual origins of this musical masterpiece until I viewed the new film, I Heard the Bells. The movie tells the dramatic behind-the-scenes story of the origin of the song, which continues to captivate audiences at Christmastime.


I Heard the Bells poster

The movie is not only a celebration of the power of music to enliven the soul. It also explores the important themes of faith and family, patriotism and poetry.

Fans of historic dramas will be particularly enthralled by the movie, which takes place in Civil War-era America. The costumes are elegant and the settings bring to life a time when life was simpler and a poet could receive nationwide acclaim.

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has long been associated with lovely phrasing and bold truth-telling. In this film, we meet the man behind the legend—a devoted husband and loving father, whose seemingly perfect world is torn apart by tragedy.

The movie is a production of Sight & Sound Films and will debut in theaters December 1 through 8 (with more dates possible) in connection with Fathom Events.

As one of America’s best-loved and recognized poets, Longfellow was the voice of culture in that moment of history. And as Sight & Sound’s first feature, it embodies our mission to tell true stories about historical figures whose lives changed the world because Christ first changed them. (Josh Enck, president and chief story officer for Sight & Sound)


Indeed, Longfellow’s conversion of heart is as critical to the film as the creation of the poem that would become the basis for a beloved Christmas carol. Through his eyes, audiences can see how tragedy can lead to triumph and how goodness, kindness, and the love of God win out in the end.

Enck, who also served as the film’s director, added, “We’re honored to partner with Fathom Events to bring this redemptive story of faith to movie theaters this Christmas season. We can’t wait for people to experience this inspiring true story on the big screen.”

Audiences who stay in the theater following the film will be treated to a special discussion with the director and cast. Tickets are available at Fathom Events or at theater box offices.

In the end, I Heard the Bells speaks to the power of words to console amidst great heartache and grief, and of a loving God to make all things new again.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!





Copyright 2022 Maria V. Gallagher
Images: courtesy of Sight & Sound Films, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Lyrics to "I Heard the Bells" are in the public domain.