A Promise (2013)

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Released 14-Jan-2015

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-x 3 for other films
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 94:24 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Patrice Leconte
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Rebecca Hall
Richard Madden
Alan Rickman
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Gabriel Yared

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Germany 1912: newly graduated Fredrich Zeitz (Richard Madden) gets a position in the steelworks owned by wealthy industrialist Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). He proves himself both adept and accommodating and soon is given positions of greater responsibility. When ill-health forces Hoffmeister to work from his home, Zeitz becomes his Personal Assistant and a frequent visitor to Hoffmeister’s house where he meets Hoffmeister’s much younger wife Lotte (Rebecca Hall) and young son Otto. Zeitz becomes indispensable, tutoring Otto, running the steelworks and accompanying Lotte on excursions, such as to the opera. Of course Lotte and Fredrich fall in love, but their love cannot be acknowledged or acted upon.

     When Fredrich is sent to Mexico for two years to oversee a joint venture mining operation, the lovers promise that when he returns they will act upon their feelings for each other. But while Fredrich is in Mexico WW1 commences and the blockade of Germany means that he cannot return and that letters cannot be received. Eight years will pass before Fredrich has a chance to return to Germany. But will the promise the lovers made still hold?

     A Promise is an English language film directed and co-written by Frenchman Patrice Leconte, based on the novel Journey into the Past by Stefan Zweig. Leconte won a BAFTA and a host of other international awards for Ridicule (1996) but is perhaps better known for the excellent Girl on the Bridge (1999). A Promise is obviously trying for an opulent, romantic period feel; it is beautiful to look at, with lavish, ornate interiors featuring gilt and wood and deep, luscious exterior colours. The film also adds a lush orchestral score by Gabriel Yared, who won an Oscar for The English Patient (1997). That A Promise does not quite work is due to a number of factors, including the pacing, the scripting and dialogue and some jerky camera moves.

     The pacing of A Promise is very languid; not a lot happens in a film that is full of suppressed emotions, glances and stilted conversations. Indeed, some of the dialogue is quite stilted, which may be a result of the script being originally written in French and translated into English. With so much happening under the surface it takes skill to bring the emotions to the surface but unfortunately Madden (Rob Stark in Game of Thrones) is not up to the task; he is sullen and his scenes with Hall that should be romantic lack sparkle. Rickman has been around a while and can be a wonderful delicious villain (Die Hard (1988), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) anyone) but in A Promise he has nothing to work with and mostly looks bored. As noted, the film does look beautiful, but this tends to be marred by some jarring hand held camera moves, especially noticeable on a number of occasions where the camera jerkily starts to zoom in on faces, only to pause, then jerk in again. This technique does become distracting, especially when elsewhere there are a number of fluid exterior tracking shots.

     A Promise looks spectacular but as a period drama / romance does not deliver enough romance or drama to be satisfying.

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Transfer Quality


     A Promise is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a film with opulent set designs featuring gilt and wood and luscious exterior colours, especially the autumnal yellows and reds. Close detail, especially as the camera lingers on the face of Rebecca Hall, is good, but other times the print does look soft in some glary sequences and slightly over-exposed. As a result skin tones sometimes look too bright. Blacks and shadow detail are good.

     There was ghosting with movement against mottled surfaces such as the factory bricks and the fussy wallpaper but otherwise artefacts and marks were not evident.

     There are no subtitles.

     The layer change at 57:17 was disruptive as it took place in the middle of a dramatic scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     This is a dialogue heavy film which mostly uses the centre and front speakers. Dialogue was always easy to hear and understand, the surrounds being used for ambient sound, such as factory noises, rain or bird calls, and music. The subwoofer was utilised for the music, thunder and some factory sounds.

     The music by Gabriel Yared was lush and effective, aided by some Beethoven, Bach and Strauss.

     There were no lip synchronisation issues.

    The audio was fine for this type of non-action film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     On start-up there were trailers for Cheerful Weather for a Wedding (1:59), The Brass Teapot (2:00) and Free Ride (2:07). The same trailers may also be selected from the menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US release of A Promise is the same as ours, only adding the film’s trailer and English and Spanish subtitles.


     A Promise is a period love story that looks beautiful and has a lush score. That the film does not quite succeed as a romance or a drama is due to languid pacing, suppressed emotions, stilted dialogue, a pairing that does not convince and some disruptive camera choices.

     The video and audio are fine. Trailers for other films are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, January 19, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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