With A Promise, the acclaimed French filmmaker Patrice Leconte makes his English debut. It’s the story of unrequited love between a handsome working class man and the beautiful wife of his wealthy employer in pre-World War I Germany.
The handsome young man is played by Richard Madden, a.k.a. Robb Stark of Game of Thrones. Given how that Red Wedding episode ended, it’s probably a good time for him to branch out into leading roles. The other parts are filled out by Alan Rickman and Rebecca Hall. It’s all very romantic and emotional and pretty.
Anyway, I had a chance to talk to Monsieur Leconte about the film and what it was like to work in English.
The film is based on a novel, Journey Into the Past, what drew you to the source material?
It’s actually the story and the characters that convey feelings and emotion that really touch me. For example, this way to be loving one another passionately without ever saying it to one another… it gave me a kind of vertigo.
A Promise is your first film in English after a long career of French filmmaking. What was your reason for making it in a different language?
This movie happens to be set in Germany in 1912, so it would have been very strange if it were to be filmed in French. As for English, it’s really a universal language. I was actually very happy to do it like this. It just felt like it was the most realistic intelligent option.
My English is very bad and that is sad, but I’ve always loved hearing the language and I’ve always been really stunned by the English actors. I really wanted the casting to happen in England, just so it has some European origins, so it has the same sensitivity on some level, because the approach to work and sensitivity is very similar to the French way.
And you were able to work with actors you wouldn’t normally have worked with.
Yes, yes, actually. I was very happy, and this decision was taken really early. I was so glad I was rubbing my hands saying “Oh my god! In the end I will be able to work with British actors!” Whether it was Rebecca Hall or Alan Rickman, they’re fantastic. In my career I’ve worked with fantastic French actors, but I have to say that the three of them–or even the four of them because the little one was also really good–it was like driving a Rolls Royce.
Were you familiar with the work of Rebecca Hall or Richard Madden beforehand?
No, actually. Without joking, I didn’t know very much about them, so it allowed myself to be myself and just be relaxed. As for Rebecca Hall, I had only seen her in the Woody Allen movie [Vicky Cristina Barcelona]. For Rickman, I had not seen any Harry Potter films. I didn’t see any of these. I saw him only in Love, Actually. As for Richard Madden, I had never seen him act, because he was playing in a very successful series called Game of Thrones. So I knew them very little, so I think that in the end it was much better.
And you’re satisfied with the result?
Beyond satisfied. I was blown away.
A Promise premiered at the festival yesterday, but you can also catch it tonight at 9:00pm at the Elgin Theatre or tomorrow at 9:15am at the Scotiabank Theatre.
Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.