'A Promise" seeks to be an intensely intimate portrait of repressed desire; a European "In The Mood For Love" set in pre-Great War Germany, with enough attentive butlers, elegant interiors and Sunday-finest promenades to make any Merchant-Ivory fan swoon.

Based on the novel "Journey into the Past" by 1920s Austrian author Stefan Zweig — whose works are experiencing renewed popularity, partly due to Wes Anderson citing him as a huge inspiration for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" — the setup gets to the point fairly quickly. An orphaned young man of humble origins, Friedrich Zeitz (Richard Madden, "Game of Thrones"), manages to land an office job with wealthy industrialist Herr Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). He applies himself to his work, and is rather quickly taken under the wing of his employer, entrusted with more responsibility to the point where he is clearly being groomed as Hoffmeister's successor.

The twist comes when Zeitz meets his employer's much younger wife, Lotte (Rebecca Hall), and is immediately intrigued. Zeitz has a girlfriend, Anna (Shannon Tarbet), an earthy, passionate neighbor in the slum where he lives, but he is instantly intrigued by Frau Hoffmeister's scents, her piano playing, her cleanliness. Or perhaps it's the fact that she is forbidden fruit?