The atrocities that occurred during World War I continue to be felt across Eastern Europe, as generations of Armenians were wiped out by the Turkish government. In 1915 these horrors were executed without a moment's thought, murdering and slaughtering approximately 1.5m people in the process as a genocide took place.
But try and broach this subject in the hall's of power and all that is returned is silence. Including that of the West. This is the horror that is portrayed in the 2017 drama The Promise, as the ensemble biopic examines these events with an all-star cast. Headlined by Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Oscar Isaac and The Dark Knight's Christian Bale.
A Charitable Case Worth Every Penny
In a pleasant change of pace for Hollywood, the movie's profits will be sent to those Armenian communities still affected some 102 years later. For Isaac, the title was an educational experience that opened his eyes and heart.
"To my shame, I didn't know about the Armenian Genocide before I got the script and spoke with Terry George (director)," he admitted. "It was new to me. To read that 1.5m Armenians perished at the hand of their own government, it was shocking. To this day, there's an active denial of it. That was the most interesting part of it, but the cast they put together, and the fact that all of the proceeds will go to charity. That's a great thing to be a part of. My approach was to read as much as I could. Try to immerse myself in the history of the time. Also, in LA, there's a small museum you can go to. For me, the biggest help was videos and recordings of survivors, who would recount what they witnessed. Little boys, as children, seeing their grandmother bayonetted by the gendarmes, or their mothers and sisters crucified, horrible atrocities. It was heartbreaking. I did feel some responsibility to try and tell their story."
With Bale playing an American Associated Press journalist in Chris Myers, the Brit remarked to MovieWeb that the cover up and public denial made the loss that more heartbreaking.
"For me, it was the documentaries where you would see survivors, talking about horrific experiences where loved ones, families, where barbarically killed," he said. "To try and get into that mindset, and in a small way, understand the pain they were going through. Then you have the fact that people were telling them that they were lying. They had witnessed it with their own eyes. People to this day refuse to call it a genocide."
Reliving The Death A Difficult Process For Cast, Crew and Locals
Making the point that there was not actually a "favorite" scene of theirs to make, the cut that stood out of the most happened on a local riverside. As the motion picture showcased the immediacy of the disaster.
"The scene where Oscar's character (Mikael) sees many of his family members and his hometown slaughtered on the riverside, that was a very emotional one for many people that day," recalled Bale. "Also, seeing Armenians whose family members had gone through that, it was a very affecting day for every single one of us on the film."
Understanding how powerful the pictures would be on screen, Isaac stressed that getting into the headspace for the death and devastation was taxing.
"Yes, that scene was really why I wanted to do the film. Every time I would read the script, it would impact me deeply. Also, throughout shooting, knowing that moment was going to come. It was going to fall on us to convey the reaction. There was a challenge. For me, it wasn't the most challenging scene physically. It was a wild shoot. But emotionally, at that point, the culmination of all the reading and watching the videos of people recounting the tragedy, to do that justice."
The Promise opens in theaters across the US on April 21.