Disclaimer: Although I don’t usually write reviews about movies on my blog, I decided to make an exception after I saw this movie last night. Before we get started, I would like to mention that when writing reviews I tackle the subject at hand with an objective mindset, pointing out the positives and negatives of what it is I’m talking about, even if it’s something that I love. There are some subjects though that hit a little too close to home. The lines get blurred. This is one of those situations. I will try to be as objective as possible, because as a reader that’s what I appreciate in reviews, but this is not just a normal review. This is my opinion about a movie that touches upon a very sensitive subject, a subject that hits extremely close to the heart, to my heart. The subject is about a “burden” that is carried by every Armenian around the world, the Armenian Genocide. The word burden might have a negative connotation, but I’m simply using it to describe an indescribable weight from the past that a people have to live with in the present, while working for a better future.
The Promise by Terry George
News about this movie has been circulating the Internet for a long time; if you have any Armenian friends on Facebook then I’m sure you’ve come across at least one article about The Promise. When I saw a headline that said that a movie was being made about the Armenian Genocide, I was excited but also apprehensive at the same time. There have been movies about the topic in the past, and honestly, I haven’t liked any of them (Yes Ararat, I’m talking about you). But then more and more information was being shared about the movie and my apprehensiveness took a backseat while the excitement took over. Big names like Christian Bale, Terry George (the director of Hotel Rwanda) and Oscar Isaac were attached to the project and my expectation of the film began to rise. I finally watched it last night, as mentioned above, and to say it bluntly: I loved it. If you want to read about the plot properly, I suggest you head over to IMDB or Wikipedia. If you wish to read about the plot from my perspective, grab some popcorn and keep reading.
The movie is pretty fast paced but it also slows down to show the audience little details about life during Ottoman times with a hint of humor, well, as much humor a movie about the death of 1.5 million people can handle. We start off the story in Siroun, the village where our hero Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) is from. He’s a smart chap who wants to be a doctor but can’t afford tuition, so he’s promised to the daughter of a nice rich guy and he uses the dowry to pay for his tuition. Mikael horses off (it’s like jetting off but with a horse) to Constantinople where he enrolls at university and lives with his rich uncle (not like Will Smith). He meets this really cool Turkish guy at medical school, who happens to be the son of a not so cool but important Turkish official. He also meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), whom he falls in love with, and her boyfriend Chris (Christian Bale). There, a love triangle (square, if you think about the wifey) begins to form. Boy loves girl but is promised to another girl, girl loves boy but has a boyfriend, boyfriend loves girl and is skeptical of boy. Love drama aside, things seem fine for a bit until BAM they’re not fine. War breaks out, Armenians are detained, hero’s uncle is arrested, his shop set on fire. His cool Turkish friend tries to help but his dad doesn’t approve. They’re all thrust into situations they don’t want to be in, death and uncertainty all around. Hero tries to save his family from slaughter by escaping to the mountain where he, and other Armenian refugees, try to fend of the Ottoman army (side note: you should read The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel) before the Armenian refugees are rescued by the French army, that have cute pompoms on their hats.
On to what I loved about the movie: As sad and depressive the movie was, there were moments that had me laughing out loud. It gave the serious subject some humanity and personality, allowing you to identify with the characters on the screen. Also, shout out to Emre Ogan for being an awesome friend and showing the audience that there are some good people in the world.
The 1.5 million Armenians, 700,000 Greeks, 200,000 Assyrians were not just slaughtered sheep, they were all living, breathing human beings with thoughts, hopes, dreams, families and talents. They were living their lives until suddenly their lives were taken from them. Against all odds, a few survived and they continue to fight for survival while living with this burden that was thrust upon them. A past that is denied, a past that is forgotten, a past that no one seems to care about… a past that I will not allow you to deny, a past that I will not allow you to forget, a past that I will make you care about. It’s been over a hundred years, but I will always remember and never forget.
TLDR: grab tissues and watch the movie, it’s out in Cinemas on April 20 in Lebanon.
For those interested, LAU Armenian Club is hosting a screening of The Promise on April 18, 2017 at 8:00 PM at Cinemall, Le Mall, Dbayeh. Check out their Facebook page for more information. Tickets are 10,000 L.L.
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