Helmer makes English-lingo debut with romantic drama

ANNECY — British thesp Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) will topline Gallic helmer Patrice Leconte’s romantic drama “A Promise,” adapted from Stefan Zweig’s novella “Journey into the Past.” The pic will be the director’s English-language debut.

Set in Germany just before WWI, “A Promise” — which is a working title — centers on the wife of an older, wealthy man who falls hopelessly in love with her husband’s teacher, a young and ambitious engineer from a modest background. They embark on a passionate liaison and quickly vow to live together. When WWI breaks out and they are separated, they promise to go on loving each other.

Hall, who is filming “Iron Man 3,” will play “A Promise’s” female lead.

“Rebecca loves the project and she knows my films, which is amazing,” Leconte told Variety at the Annecy Film Festival, where he presented his first animated feature, “The Suicide Shop,” a musical adaptation of Jean Teule’s novel, on Monday.

” ‘A Promise’ is an intimate, troubling and compelling love story that delves into the lasting power of passion,” Leconte explained. “Can intense love defy time, distance, betrayal and war?”

Casting director Susie Figgis is casting the other thesps, who will most likely be British, Leconte said.

Leconte co-wrote the adaptation with Jerome Tonnerre, whose credits include Gilles Bourdos’ “Renoir,” which preemed in Cannes, and “The Women on the Sixth Floor,” helmed by Philippe Le Guay. Leconte and Tonnerre have collaborated on a number of films, notably “Intimate Strangers.”

Leconte is one of Gaul’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful helmers, whose career spans four decades, including such cult pics as “Ridicule” and “The Hairdresser’s Husband.” Although he’s best known for comedies and dramedies, Leconte said, he “(didn’t) want to transform the spirit of Zweig’s literature into something that’s light-hearted.”

“Zweig’s darker spirit fits me well,” he said.

Pic is produced by Marc Missonnier and Olivier Delbosc via their Paris-based banner Fidelite Films.

The film will start lensing in the fall for expected delivery in spring 2013. It will be co-produced with Belgium and possibly Germany, Leconte said.

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