A promise to a reel librarian

Every Christmas holiday, my husband and I have a tradition of binge-watching a movie- or TV-series marathon. In past years, we’ve gone through the Harry Potter movies (that took us two days to complete), Star WarsSupermanThe Thin Man series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so on. This year, after having watched Die Hard (1988) and Love Actually (2003) after Thanksgiving, we chose Alan Rickman as our theme for this holiday’s movie marathon. As we left it pretty late, we selected whichever Alan Rickman movies were available to us through our own personal collection, HuluPlus (we have a subscription), and our local public library.

Reel Librarians  |  DVDs of Alan Rickman movies

One of those movies was the 2013 period film A Promise, based on Stefan Zweig’s novel Journey Into the Past. The plotline — as well as the resulting film — is pretty straightforward. Set in 1912 in Germany, a young, hard-working man gains the trust and confidence of an older businessman — and then falls in love with the older man’s wife. Believe me, it sounds a lot racier than the result.

It stars Richard Madden as the young man, engineer Friedrich Zeitz; Alan Rickman as businessman Karl Hoffmeister — sporting an awesome mustache; and Rebecca Hall as his wife, Lotte. One online review summed up the film this way:  “A Promise is an overwrought bodice-ripper that forgets to rip bodices.”

Friedrich, a poor young man who has graduated first in his engineering class, earns Karl Hoffmeister’s confidence through his work ethic and intelligence. Friedrich also reveals that he felt education was his only chance in life.

Much to my surprise while watching the film, A Promise includes a brief library scene. Very brief. As in 15 seconds brief.

A quarter-hour into the film, we see Friedrich in a library, his table piled high with books. He is poring over a book entitled Mexico and a map. [This makes sense later when Friedrich advises Karl to invest in a mine in Mexico. Friedrich is then the one sent to Mexico as the company’s project manager.]

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

While Friedrich makes notes, a male librarian slowly makes his way down the row of tables and deposits a couple of books on Friedrich’s table.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

How do we know he’s a librarian? Because he’s wheeling a book cart, of course! (See also my posts for City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s GoldRicochetand Chances Are, among others.)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots from 'A Promise' (2013)

An Information Provider, for sure, and one of the most minimal ones at that, ending up in the Class IV category of films. (It didn’t surprise me that the librarian is uncredited.) Amazing that the screen time for the reel librarian in this film is about the same as for the reel librarian in WarGames — but what a difference of significance and importance between the two reel librarian portrayals!

What I did like about this scene is that it underscores Friedrich’s commitment to education and lifelong learning — and how he obviously associates the library with that education, as well. 🙂

By the way, if you’re interested, here are the movies we watched during our Alan Rickman marathon — a mixture of movies we had seen before along with a few new to us:

  • Two episodes of The Barchester Chronicles (1982)
  • Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves (1991)
  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Dark Harbor (1998)
  • Dogma (1999)
  • Gambit (2012)
  • A Promise (2013)

Although the qualities of the movies varied widely, we did come away with a renewed appreciation of Rickman’s immense acting talents!


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