Patrice Leconte’s ‘A Promise’

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    Love and ambition are the protagonists of A Promise, the French drama romance film directed by Patrice Leconte and written by Patrice Leconte and Jérôme Tonnerre, presented during the Venice Film Festival 2013.

    The intense plot story is based on Stefan Zweig’s novel Journey into the Past and features international stars, including Rebecca Hall, Alan Rickman, Richard Madden and Maggie Steed.

    The freshly graduated engineer Friedrich Zeitz succeeds in gaining the confidence of the successful entrepreneur Karl Hoffmeister and becomes his right hand. The turning point for the young and ambitious engineer occurs when Hoffmeister’s degrading health forces him to stay locked in his villa. Friedrich regularly visits Hoffmeister at home to brief him about the business activity. In this context, Friedrich meets the beautiful and elegant Charlotte, Hoffmeister’s young wife, who is a typical discrete woman of the boss in her early 30s. Friedrich is immediately conquered by her mysterious charme and enters into a triangular game, not realizing that she is also fascinated by him. But when they disclose their mutual attraction for each other, Hoffmeister decides to send Friedrich to represent his firm overseas. Friedrich has to make the difficult decision between a bright career in another emerging and interesting country and his love for Charlotte, who is not likely to leave Hoffmeister. But the unpredictable outbreak of the First World War keeps Friedrich away from Germany for a long time and complicates the relationship between the two. Only the end of the war, the death of Hoffmeister and many years of separation will tell us if the love between Friedrich and Charlotte was really true.

    The movie investigates the relationship between three characters fighting for love and ambition in a psychological game that will change their lives forever. It’s a sort of initiation for Friedrich, who comes from a modest family and lives in a modest apartment. He is intelligent, faithful and, most important, very ambitious. Hoffmeister understands that and just in time; he needs someone to trust because of his weak health. Little by little, the young engineer enters the universe of a couple who’ve lost what little passion they ever had during their marriage. Charlotte is not happy but, as always, she can’t break with Hoffmeister. Friedrich has to bear the difficulty of the separation, orchestrated by his boss, and demonstrate to himself and to Charlotte the value of trust.

    Leconte is able to retain the audience’s attention until the end of the film, and, thanks to marvelous photography and a great cast, including an impressive role for Rickman, he is able to immerse us in the atmosphere of a Germany facing the First World War, while investigating the souls of three different characters unified by one vital element.

    PHOTO: Stephanie Cornfield