No heat in this painful ro­mance

A PROM­ISE

Kapi-Mana News - - MOVIES/NEWS -

Ro­man­tic dra­mas, films that ex­plore the na­ture of pas­sion, long­ing and love, are cin­e­matic anachro­nisms in this day and age.

Who wants a rom-drom – an hour and a half of pure long­ing fol­lowed by a des­per­ate farewell – when the lat­est rom-com fea­tures Cameron Diaz in her knick­ers?

Corseted ro­man­tic drama Prom­ise, from French di­rec­tor Pa­trice Le­conte, does noth­ing to dis­pel ro­man­tic drama’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Sure, it ends with a kiss, but apart from that it’s all drom and very lit­tle real rom.

Set in Ger­many just be­fore World War I, it starts with young up-and-com­ing steel worker Lud­wig ( Game Of Thrones’ Richard Mad­den), catch­ing the eye and

Aimag­i­na­tion of his ail­ing boss, Hoffmeis­ter (Alan Rick­man).

As Hoffmeis­ter fades, Lud­wig as­cends, tak­ing over Hoffmeis­ter’s role in the busi­ness and his place in Hoffmeis­ter’s beau­ti­ful, young and vi­va­cious wife Lotte’s (Re­becca Hall) heart.

But it’s 1912, when people still gave a damn about pro­pri­ety, re­spect, duty and all that malarkey.

So the lovelorn pair con­tent them­selves with a few brief, chaste touches and the glimpse of an an­kle, and tor­ture them­selves with their ad­mi­ra­tion and af­fec­tion for Hoffmeis­ter.

It’s all in­cred­i­bly painful, un­til Hoffmeis­ter gives Lud­wig his big­gest re­spon­si­bil­ity yet – min­ing all the way off in Mex­ico – and then it be­comes un­bear­able.

Awk­ward, tightly laced and des­per­ate, A Prom­ise could have been a Mer­chant Ivory-like con­fec­tion of want, angst and so­cial com­ment, but lacks the sen­su­al­ity and vis­ual sump­tu­ous­ness to bring its staid story and up­right pe­riod to life.

Much like the emo­tions of its sub­jects, Le­conte’s vis­ual style is su­per­fi­cial and melo­dra­matic, with awk­ward and dis­tanc­ing crash zooms, weird low an­gles and sneaky ‘‘what the but­ler saw’’ point- of- view shots. It’s as dis­tract­ing as the ro­mance is tepid.

In­deed, am­bi­tious Lud­wig is of­ten more ef­fu­sive about his ac­counts than he ever is about Lotte.

As Lud­wig ap­praises her body with an ac­quis­i­tive eye, ev­ery inch the prospec­tor her hus­band hired, Lotte seems just an­other step up the lad­der to­wards Lud­wig’s supremacy.

And for Lotte, Lud­wig is lit­tle more than a chance to have a lit­tle of that ram­bunc­tious, breath­steal­ing ro­mance one imag­ines love is when one is 12.

To be fair, Mad­den and Hall make a beau­ti­ful cou­ple, and Rick­man is a charm­ing, if deeply un­sexy, fig­ure next to them.

But, trapped in an end­less win­ter as the film is – it takes place over more than a decade, yet we never see a spring or a sum­mer – the pas­sion ut­terly fails to ig­nite, and we’re left won­der­ing what the point of it all is.

Chilly fire: Awk­ward, des­per­ate lovers Lotte (Re­becca Hall) and Lud­wig (Richard Mad­den) fi­nally have their mo­ment in the sun in A Prom­ise.

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