Set in pre-First World War Germany, Patrice Leconte's venture into English-language filmmaking chronicles the simmering love triangle between an ailing factory owner (Alan Rickman), his young bride (Rebecca Hall) and his protégé (Richard Madden).
Stefan Zweig's novel Journey into the Past, set in pre-First World War Germany, provides the inspiration for Patrice Leconte's venture into English-language production. Employing his by-now familiar style, Leconte, a master of the unexpected, finds a simmering romance within the pages of Zweig's book, and uses its slow heat to powerful effect. But A Promise is no bodice-ripper. It is an elegantly directed, keenly modulated love story.
Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman) is an ailing factory owner, whiskered and respectable. As his energies flag, he looks to a sharp young man in his employ for help. Ludwig (Richard Madden) impresses Hoffmeister with his reliability and youthful spirit, and the older man finds himself leaning more and more on this promising up-and-comer. At the same time, Hoffmeister's young bride (Rebecca Hall) is looking for a tutor for their child, and Ludwig proves both flexible and willing. When he moves into their home, an emotional triangle develops. Societal dignity and decorum must be respected, and it is. Nevertheless, heated passions come into play, while Hoffmeister looks on.
Unravelling over many years, this
tale extends well beyond its set-up, and
Leconte moves us through the emotional
maze, making us aware of the complexities
of feeling amongst all of the players.
Beautifully supported by three fine actors,
A Promise delivers on its premise. Love can
take many forms before it either blooms or
fades. Beneath those starched shirts and
lacy blouses, feelings of respect and care
rub up against those of lust and desire.