"A Promise" – (Movie 2014)

A Melodramatic Love Affair
Released Overseas – Now Streaming on Amazon
Stars: Alan Richman, Rebecca Hall, Richard Madden
It is probably a matter of personal taste when watching a story of forbidden love as to how it is portrayed.  There have been many that have gone before “A Promise” that have moved readers and audiences alike.  Frankly, it’s old tale of elderly man, young wife, and introduction of handsome contender who falls for the forbidden fruit.  As much as I like Alan Rickman, I found this movie to be a slow-moving tale lacking the passion I hoped to encounter.

Alan plays the elderly owner of a foundry, Karl Hoffmeister, with an ailing heart.  Enters Friedrich Zeitz, who he takes under his wing as his protege.  It’s apparent from the beginning he is grooming the young, intelligent man to take over his business. Early in their relationship, he discloses the secret that he is not well. 
 
As he methodically allows the young handsome Friedrich to enter his home and take up residence, you gain the sense that he has purposely brought him close to his wife to encourage something more.  Perhaps, it is the love of an older, dying man for his young wife to make sure her needs are met after his demise.  Little did he know, that having done so, he finds himself brokenhearted over the outcome when she falls in love with Friedrich.

Rebecca Hall plays the proper wife, though slightly dull.  Richard Madden plays the protege, who is immediately attracted to Heir Hoffmeister’s wife.  He turns into a sappy, slightly obsessive worshiper of young Charlotte. In one scene he smells her scent and kisses the keys of the piano that she has played, as if he’s making love to it.  Of course, that is countered later in the movie with Charlotte sniffing the pillow of his empty bed.

The two are thrown together due to Heir Hoffmeister’s ill health attending the opera and other activities.  It’s a silent game between the two, as they both play with fire, but fail to acknowledge their feelings for one another for some time.  It’s not until Hoffmeister reaches the stage of jealousy, that he sends off his rival to Mexico on business for two years.  Then, the floodgates of words of undying love burst forth between the two, as well as the “promise” to wait for one another.

The movie is set in pre-WWI Germany.  When war ensues, it keeps them apart far longer than either anticipated.  After the death of her husband, and many years of receiving no word, Friedrich returns after the war.  Charlotte who has been sorrowfully smitten and pining for her sweetheart meets him once again.  Instead of the passionate reunion you anticipate, it turns into a polite cup of tea like two friends making up for lost time. He is aloof and cold, she is polite and proper.  In fact, he confesses he’s not married but has been with other women.  She fluffs it off as inconsequential.  It’s not until the end scene they finally kiss.  Where’s the tears? Where’s the passion? Where is the joy of seeing one another again?  Obviously, six years has cooled them off.  It’s an odd, emotionless reunion.

The more I think about why this movie doesn’t have the effect is should, is that the two main characters, Charlotte and Friedrich, never really take the viewers to the point of falling in love with them.  Friedrich is sullen, moody, and intense.  He surely didn’t make me want to swoon and commit adultery.  Charlotte’s character, though quite innocent in the beginning, doesn’t really portray why she is so unhappy with her husband that she should be tempted to stray.  Because I never bonded with the characters, except for Herr Hoffmeister, it wasn’t an exciting, moving, heart-throbbing love story that made me want to see the two live happily ever after.  Even though it is based off a novel written by Stefan Zweig’s “Journey into the Past,” it comes across as a worn-out plot that is missing important elements of passion to make it memorable.
Of course, I love period movies, whether excellent or mediocre.  Though for me this was more mediocre, you may find it your cup of tea.

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