Une Promesse showcased in Venice
by Domenico La Porta
- Patrice Leconte’s first film in English was screened out of competition at the 70th Venice Mostra where it received a nuanced response…
Known for his popular successes in France (Ridicule, the trilogy Les Bronzés…), experienced director Patrice Leconte has challenged himself with his latest films. After a recent start in animation (The Suicide Shop [+see also:
film profile] in 2012), Leconte continues his collaboration with Belgium thanks to a coproduction filmed, for the first time in his career, in English. But the European dimension of Une promesse [+see also:
film profile] goes beyond the boundaries of these two neighbouring countries since the film uses British actors and is adapted from the posthumous novel by Austrian author Stefan Zweig, who set his story in Germany.
When the story begins in 1912, Ludwig (Richard Madden who is famous thanks to the series Games of Thrones), an orphan from a humble background, enters the administrative service of a large steel factory belonging to Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). The wealthy owner rapidly takes the young man under his wing in order to ensure his succession. Ludwig moves in to the Hoffmeister home and meets Charlotte (Rebecca Hall), the young and beautiful wife of his elderly and sick boss. Between Ludwig and Charlotte, a seduction game, platonic and reserved, clearly begins without either one ever admitting to it. Suddenly, Karl decides to send Ludwig to Mexico to supervise a new mining exploitation and the announcement of his departure overwhelms Charlotte who finally confesses her feelings. Before leaving each other, the two lovers make a promise: to meet again in two years and be together. Shortly thereafter, war breaks out and the duration of their separation becomes undetermined...
Very classical, including in the undemonstrative acting, Une promesse is a period drama that takes its time. The historical reconstitution is credible thanks to the set found in Wallonia where the film benefitted from tax benefits from the Belgian Tax Shelter. The neat cinematography of Eduardo Serra (Blood Diamond, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows... [+see also:
film profile]) contributes to smoothing out this work for an audience of the director’s generation or those in search of romantic stories depicted with modesty. With the optimism he is known for, Leconte changes the negative ending of the novel, because he does not want to “keep the spectator’s head under water”. All these elements put together offer the promise of a nice swim in quiet waters. No risk of drowning for the spectator who might have these expectations as he goes into the theatre. Others will certainly try to sink this film, which certainly doesn’t deserve such a fate.
(Translated from French)
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