Based on a true story the Turks still deny, The Promise flew way under the radar. This is another history lesson that everyone should know and see. Everywhere, The Promise was featured/advertised as a love triangle involving a medical student, an American journalist and an Armenian women raised in France. However, more than a love triangle, it’s a story of Genocide against the Armenians in the 1900’s just as World War I was getting started.
NOTE: The film was a box office bomb, grossing just $8 million against its $90 million budget. According to the studio, The Promise was made to bring attention to the events of the Genocide as oppose to making money.
Mikael, (Oscar Isaac) an apothecary is an Armenian whose life dream is to be a medical doctor. Living in the small village of Sirun with not enough money to afford medical school, he promised his hand in marriage to the daughter, Marta (Shohreh Aghdashloo), of an affluent neighbor, in exchange for 400 gold coins as her dowry, which would more than pay for his education. Mikael was sincere in his proposal and was determined to fall in love with Marta upon his return from Constantinople’s Medical Academy as a doctor. Upon arrival in Constantinople, Mikael was to contact a wealthy uncle and family friend, Mesrob (Yigal Naor) for his boarding, food and any other help he may need. While there, Mikael meets and falls in love with Ana, (Charlotte Le Bon) who is already romantically involved with Chris Myers, (Christian Bale) an American reporter for the Associated Press, as well as befriends Emre Ogan, (Marwan Kenzari) who is also in training to be a doctor and is the son of a high level Turkish official but is only doing so for his father, as he has no interest in the medical profession.
World War I as started and Mikael temporarily manages to avoid conscription in the Ottoman army through a medical student exemption with the help of Emre. But when he tries to save his uncle from imprisonment during the roundups of April 24, 1915, he is detained and sent to a prison labor camp himself. There he is put to hard labor where many Armenians were brutalized and died of exhaustion and starvation.
The events of The promise are graphic and sad. An estimated 1.5 million people were murdered, including innocent women and children, for no reason. The love story was insignificant but felt necessary to keep relations between the nations at a tolerable acceptance. I for one, feel horrible that anyone should get away with such atrocities but it has happened many times in many places with no repercussions. At any rate, this movie was well put together and was very informative. It’s due to be released on July 18th to DVD. Check it out if just for the history lesson!