„The Promise“ (2010.) is controversial British mini-series about the events in Palestine/Israel. History is a circle that repeats itself. In recent productions that I’ve watched that fact was never more obvious than in this series.
In four episodes, we follow young British girl Erin Matthews into the Palestine, where the story will become double timeline narrative. In one timeline, we follow Erin while she tries to retrace the steps of her, now dying, grandfather and in the other we follow her grandfather as a young man just after the WW2. Two stories are similar, but not the same. Erin is living in her friend’s house with an Israeli family which is divided in itself just as the country we’re watching in front of us. Her grandfather Len (Christian Cooke) on the other hand, is part of the British protectorate of the Palestine (1945.– 48.). He was also one of the soldiers that entered concentration camp Bergen-Belsen and liberated the Jews from the horror of Nazi holocaust. Just afterwards, he says to his superior, that “this people have suffered so much and we should give them everything they want.” But, Len doesn’t know how far things will go. After the war more and more Jewish people populated Palestine and quotas were introduced. That act was interpreted as Nazism all over again and something, known today, as Jewish terrorism started. In that turmoil, Len is forced to change some of his views, and the path of betrayals, disappointment, ideology and torture is set.
One could criticize this series as too pro-Arab, but to get historical facts straight, things described in it did happen in the Palestine after the WW2. In the future timeline his granddaughter Erin almost becomes the victim of the other terrorism, Arabic one, in the wheel of history that never stops turning. Terror, as so many other things, depends on that who’s watching. In the epic scene after the Arab terrorist attack, the father leads son to the Wall, and says: “See son, that two sides of the wall. What can you see? You can see desert on their side and green on ours. We did in 50 years what they couldn’t do in 2000.” Of course, both of them were Jews. That just confirms theory that terror is a concept, and that concept is not self-understanding. Question is, can you declare war on concept?
Unfortunately, this is where “The Promise” missed a chance to become a masterpiece. To do justice to the critics, series is pro-Arab in many ways, but that’s possibly due to the social context of post 9/11 world. Storyline of Len is very well made, with great acting, surprise along the way and accurately depicted situation in the Palestine (and the world) in the forties. Erin’s story, however, isn’t comparable. Acting of the Claire Foy fades out as the series goes on, and her actions are at times so fictional that in real-life Palestine she would probably end up shot. Either from Arab or Israeli side, whatsoever. “The Promise” missed a chance to be great counter-terrorism piece, great anti-politics piece. Sometimes, the title is just right. “The Promise” to the viewer wasn’t kept. Screenwriters were lost as they were closer to the end.
As far as the promises in the series go, it’s recommended watching, so you figure it out.