A PROMISE is an exquisitely beautiful very quiet film based on Stefan Zweig's novel 'Journey Into The Past', sensitively transformed into a screenplay by writer/director Patrice Laconte (Monsieur Hire, The Hairdresser's Husband, The Widow of Saint-Pierre, Intimate Strangers etc) and co-writer Jérôme Tonnerre (Intimate Strangers, Un Coeur en Hiver, My Father's Glory etc). The story is enhanced in the film version so well because of the cast of fine actors and because of the atmospheric, very important musical score by Gabriel Yared.
Staying very close to Zweig's novel, the story is set in Germany just before WWI and is centered on a married woman who falls in love with her husband's protégé. Separated first by duties and then by the war, they pledge their devotion to one another. Young Friederich Zeitz Richard Madden) has humble origins, but rises to the attention of his new boss, Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). Karl is aging and suffers from severe heart disease and his impression of Friederich's brilliance grows steadily. As he volunteers to tutor his employer's son Otto (Toby Murray), he gets more and more attached to Karl's young wife Lotte (Rebecca Hall). She refuses however to betray her husband even when they learn Friedrich must go to Mexico for two years to supervise a mining project for Karl. Friedrich and Lotte swear one another they will stay true to each other, but the oncoming war keeps them apart for far longer than expected. After six years, Friedrich goes back to Germany and finally sweeps Lotte off her feet.
Rickman, Hall and Madden deliver perfectly crafted performances, each revealing the difficulty of keeping a promise when personal needs are not being fulfilled. It is a pleasure to see a romance bloom, pause and then grow into a full bouquet as time and circumstances change. The impact of the period of pre-WW I Germany, then Germany at war and losing, and the gloom of silence after the war is over is underlined splendidly by Eduardo Serra's cinematography and Yared's Beethoven-infused score. This is a period piece, finely crafted by Patrice Laconte. Its mood lingers in the mind long after the film is over.