Not Only A Promise, But A Song As Well
Vahe H. Apelian
The title might be ambigious. Let me state beforehand that it is about my take of the film “The Promise”. I saw it twice. I have often seen the movies I liked more than once. Among such movies at this very moment I recall Topol’s “Fiddler On The Roof”, Henry Fonda’s “War and Peace”, Marlon Brando’s “Mutiny and the Bounty”, Ben Kingsley’s “Ghandi” and many others. I have always enjoyed seeing the same film over again. Nuances in the film that I missed the first time become evident to me. I may not be an exception and that many others may also like to see the movies they liked for a second time. After all instinctively we all like to relive enjoyable experiences. It is often because of the brevity of the leisure time we have at our hands that we give preference seeing another movie instead of the same.
The film was aired all over the world. I came across commentaries about the film from Lebanon, Syria, Europe and the Americas. Some had liked the movie. Others had found the move to be a sanitized version of the Armenian experience and not a true reflection of it. Some had found that the move rightfully depicted the cosmopolitan Constantinople at the time; others had found the intimate scenes out of place for the times. Some found that that spending such an amount of money was a waste and that it could have put to better use, others argued against it in favor of Kirk Kerkorian spending his money as he saw fit.
It is natural that we will be making contradicting comments about the film. We, as post genocide Diaspora Armenians, have beome hyphenated Armenians. For the past century we have been living among larger societies and have naturally absorbed the norms and values of the greater society and at times its language as well to the exclusion of our own. We view things from own overall cultural and social experiences.
The thing that seemed to be missing in such comments was the realization that the film is born out of Armenian-American experience. I do not know whether Kirk kerkorian made the funds available to make the film and henceforth completley disassociated himself from the theme of the movie or if he had his own views known as to how the theme of the movie should be best sturctured. I am inclined to believe that he had his say, drawn form his and his parental family’s experiences.
The film encompassed a period of twenty five years, from the onset of the first great war in 1914/1915 to the onset of the second great war in 1938/1939. America formally entered the WWII on December 7, 1941. But the war had stated in 1939 and had caught the American society across the Atlantic no less in a heightened mood. During these twenty-years, the film amply made evident that survivors of the Armenian genocide lost all their worldy possessions if not their dignity as well, but largely overcame it as the concluding upper middle class scene in Watertown, MA depicted. Where else such a concluding scene could have been depicted with a degree of historical accuracy?
I understand that the Untied States of America during those years was a far different country. The survivors of the Armenain genocide indeed found on its hospitable shores a fullfillment of a promise for a better life in ways they might not envisioned possible in their wildest dreams. In a mere twenty five years Mikael had become a practicing physican and had carved for himelf a life that not only had the trappings of a comfortable upper middle class; he seemed also to have integrated himself in the greater society with ease having found acceptance. He celebrated his adopted daughter marrying not an ethnic Armenian but an American, surely of good character. The children of the survivors were now serving in the armed forces of the country their parents had made their own.
It has been my impression that the survivors of the Armenian felt particulary indepted to their adopted country. George Mardigian pennned his appreciation of the United States of America in his book he titled “Song of Ameircan”. The book was translated in Armenian and in my teenage years I had a copy of the book altough I do not have a recollection of having read it. For that matter, I also do not have a recollection of having not read it. Decades ago when we were visiting Disney’s Epcot Center I saw a passage from the book depicted in a section devoted to American history.
Kirk Kerkorian, by his own admission, was not literarry inclined and avoided the limelight even though he was insturmental in creaiting the city, Las Vegas, that thrives on limelight. The country that his parents had adopted their own, gave him the opportunity to realize his ambitions in spectacular ways. There seemed to have been more to name the name the film “The Promise” than the promise Mikael made to his fiancee. It would not surprise that the film was also Kirk Kerkorian’s tribute to the promise of the United States to Kirk Kerkorian family. I am inclined to believe that the film was a also Kirk Kerkorian’s “song of America”.