The Promise (Promesse, La) (1996)

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Released 7-Feb-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Adrian Martin, Film Scholar & Co-Editor of Rouge Magazine
Theatrical Trailer-The Promise
Trailer-Propaganda Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 90:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Luc Dardenne

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jérémie Renier
Olivier Gourmet
Assita Ouedraogo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Jean-Marie Billy
Denis M'Punga

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Belgian filmmakers, the Dardenne Brothers, have developed a respected reputation in the realist genre of cinema. The films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne follow similar principles to those outlined in Lars Von Trier's Dogma 95 manifesto - that is, nothing artificial is used in the production process. While the Dardenne Brothers may not follow the Dogma rules completely, their basic filmmaking principles are similar. They heavily limit the use of fixed cameras, so most scenes are shot using hand-held cameras. Natural lighting, direct sound and the absence of a musical score combine well with natural performances from the cast to create a factual ambiance.

    While many people regard The Promise as the Dardennes' first film, they actually began their careers making documentaries in the late seventies. This fact alone goes someway to explain their naturalistic method of filmmaking.

    Fifteen-year-old Igor (Jérémie Renier) works as an apprentice motor-mechanic. He also helps his father, Roger (Olivier Gourmet) run an unscrupulous business, exploiting illegal immigrants for cheap labour on his construction site.

    We learn early on that Igor lacks discipline and morals when he shamelessly steals the pension money of an elderly woman. Growing up alone under the corrupt guidance of his father has voided Igor of any emotional or moral lessons in his life.

    One day while at work in the garage, Igor receives an urgent phone call from his father. Roger requests that Igor leave work immediately to warn the immigrants on the construction site of the imminent arrival of the authorities. Igor doesn't hesitate with his father's request, even though his boss (Frédéric Bodson) gives him the ultimatum of losing his job if he leaves. Igor proves his strong alliance to his father.

    In the panic that ensues, one of the immigrants, Amidou (Rasmane Ouedraogo) falls from scaffolding and lays critically injured. Igor is the only person aware of the accident and he quickly rushes to his aid. As Amidou lay dying, Igor makes him a promise that he will take care of his wife, Assita (Assita Ouedraogo ) and their baby son. Roger soon arrives on the scene and in a selfish act of self-preservation, he quickly covers the body so the authorities and other immigrant workers remain unaware of the accident.

    With the assistance of Igor, Roger disposes of the body by burying it within a concrete slab. He concocts a convenient story that Amidou has vanished to avoid paying his ever-increasing gambling debts.

    Amidou's wife and child continue to live in Roger's meagre accommodation and await his return. Without Roger's knowledge, Igor is intent on fulfilling the promise he made to Amidou. He begins to make a start into ensuring the welfare of Assita and the baby.

    In an effort to rid himself of the blame and shame of Amidou's death and subsequent burial, Roger schemes to send Assita away on the assumption of the whereabouts of Amidou. This presents Igor with a most significant test of loyalty, as he must choose between an allegiance with his father or fulfilling his promise to a dying Amidou.

    The Promise is a superb drama that feels as real as any documentary. The combination of outstanding performances and careful direction ensures the narrative remains authentic and captures the perfect level of emotion.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for The Promise is quite good considering the basic origins of the source material.

    The film is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.

    The Promise was filmed using Super16mm, which was then blown up to 35mm. The levels of sharpness and clarity were really quite good, while still maintaining a degree of the desired grittiness. Although inherent film grain was occasionally noticed, blacks were generally very clean. Shadows displayed a good degree of detail.

    Colours in the film are deliberately soft and muted. They are very well balanced and did not present any adverse problems.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were insignificant and film artefacts were also not an issue.

    English subtitles are available on the disc. They are perfectly legible in bold yellow and are not burnt into the print.

    This is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change is very well placed during a scene at 51:26 . It is noticeable, but not at all disruptive.

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


    The audio transfer is basic, but excellent and is well suited to the content of the film.

    The are two audio tracks available on this DVD. French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    Although I don't speak French, dialogue quality and audio sync both appeared to be very good.

    Keeping with the element of realism, there was no musical score used in the film. The only music heard in The Promise, occurs incidentally.

    The surround channels were not used. This film would simply not get any benefit from a surround audio track.

    The subwoofer came to life on a couple of occasions, with closing doors and the like.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are minimal, but the audio commentary is worth the listen.


    The menu is animated with a sample of the go-karting scene from the film. This is complete with sound and 16x9 enhancement.


Audio Commentary - Adrian Martin (Film Scholar and Co-Editor of Rouge Magazine)

    Again, it's good to hear an Australian accent in commentary of a foreign film. Recently, Adrian Martin provided an excellent commentary for the Madman release of the Buñuel classic, The Exterminating Angel. As with his previous commentary, he provides a thoroughly enlightening commentary on the film and avoids the common trap of repetitively describing scenes. His commentary also provides considerable insight into the career of the Dardenne Brothers so far and their existing body of work. The flow of Adrian's discussion is constant, he really only pauses to draw breath. His commentary is backed up with many anecdotes and comparisons with other films. In the absence of a commentary from the brothers themselves, the commentary from Adrian does very nicely.

Theatrical Trailer

    The Promise (1:12)

Directors Suite Trailers

  • The Child (1:26)
  • The Son (1:40)
  • 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her (2:38)


    R4 vs R1

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

         I will compare this version of The Promise with the R1 version, released by New Yorker Video on 15th January 2002.

        The R1 version is quite basic. It appears to have similar transfer specs to this R4 version, but has the addition of Italian subtitles as well as English. The only extras on the R1 edition are the theatrical trailer and a twenty-one-image photo gallery, with stills from the film.

        Unless Italian subtitles are of importance, the R4 edition seems the clear winner here, for the welcome addition of Adrian Martin's informative commentary.


         The Promise is a beautifully poignant film that will stay in your thoughts for sometime. If you're already an admirer of the Dardenne Brothers and their films, then The Promise is a must for your collection. If you're unfamiliar with their work, this film is an excellent place to start.

        The transfers are quite good and appear to be faithful to the source material.

        The extras are minimal, but the inclusion of Adrian Martin's commentary is very welcome and worthwhile.


  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Saturday, March 24, 2007
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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