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Saturday, December 14, 2013

'The Promise' DVD: Exceptionally Balanced Look at Israeli Conflict

The Promise
BFS Entertainment's recent 2-disc DVD release of the 2010 six-hour four-part British mini-series "The Promise" is a great example of that form of "sweeps" staples up through the '80s on this side of the pond. This seemingly well-balanced look at the decades-long Israeli conflict alternates between the roots of that war and conditions in 2005.

British actress Claire Foy plays recent high school graduate Erin Matthews, who discovers her grandfather's journal depicting his experiences while serving in then British-ruled Palestine at the end of WW II and the following year. Christian Cooke, who is uber-awesome in the 2009 British supernatural series "Demons," does a great job portraying Sergeant Len Matthews during that period in Len's life.

These parallels result in, sometimes overlapping, alternate scenes in the 1940s and 2005. For example, depicting a bombing of the British military's headquarters in 1945 roughly coincides with Erin being outside a cafe in which a suicide bomb detonates explosives.

The fact that Erin discovers the journal a few days before leaving London for a pre-planned trip to Israel to provide her Israeli friend Eliza emotional support during Eliza's basic training with the Israeli army is a bit forced, but the wonderful on-location cinematography and well-presented story more than compensate for that.

Recognition of the quality of "Promise" includes nominations for awards such as the BAFTA, a.k.a. British Oscar/Emmy hybrid, for best drama serial.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Promise" is arguably unduly intense but provides a good sense of the wonderful qualities of this film.
The fact that "Promise" writer/director portrays every aspect of the 1940s and modern stories without making one side a hero both makes this production controversial and a rare chance to get a balanced perspective regarding the "troubles" over there.

Taking the historic events chronologically, Len arrives in Palestine near the end of WWII. The graphic footage of his initial tasks of liberating the concentration camp survivors and burying those who did not survive is rough to watch. These incredibly disturbing scenes, and one of European Jews climbing down the side of a decrepit ship, to settle in Israel look like something out of a zombie movie.

The primary '40s era conflict during the first part of "Promise" relates to native Jews attacking British soldiers in retaliation for the the British government's efforts to control the large numbers of Jews coming in from Israel. Len being in the thick of all this has his struggling to maintain his humanity while still fulfilling his duty as a soldier.

The conflict from this era then shifts to the still-ongoing battle between Arabs and Jews for possession of territory in what while soon transform from Palestine to Israel.

For her part, Erin learns of the Palestinian side of the story from Eliza's brother Paul. Paul goes from literally being a good soldier to opposing some Israeli positions after serving in the occupied area of Hebron. Erin witnessing a tense conflict at the Hebron border is one of the more compelling scenes in this engrossing mini-series.

The events during Erin's subsequent journey to Gaza for the purpose of fulfilling the titular promise of Len provides a very apt end to this series.

The conclusion additionally proves the adage that history repeats itself, although the current leaders over there should heed the equally well-known saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. This aspect of the conflict make the whole thing seem like an extraordinarily long and  horribly violent "Tom and Jerry" cat-and-mouse style war.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Promise" is encouraged to email me. You can also reach me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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