The Aftermath is a film about a love triangle. Unfortunately, there is more triangle than love in this slow-paced meandering war film.
Set in Germany five months after the end of the Second World War, British occupiers are both hostile and fearful of the conquered German population. English-woman Rachel Morgan (Keira Knightley) travels to Hamburg to join her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British officer tasked with finding any lingering Hitler supporters (Lewis’ character spends a little too much time emphasising he doesn’t believe ALL Germans are Nazis). Rachel and Lewis occupy the house of German widower Stefan (Alexander Skarsgård) and his daughter, who are kindly allowed to live in their own attic.
After having watched this film, directed by James Kent and based on the novel by Rhidian Brook, I found it hard to recall any memorable scenes. I don’t expect that anyone who watches this film will be anticipating an Oscar winning piece of transformative cinema, however this film fails to be even slightly entertaining. After a hopeful opening twenty minutes the film tapers off into a contrived melodrama.
Rachel is thrust into the chaotic and ruined city of Hamburg, a complete shock to her compared to her home: the chaotic and ruined city of London. As the film’s protagonist, she makes a show of being flawed and haunted, refusing to speak or touch a German, and seemingly unhappy about everything all whilst enjoying her fully furnished, beautiful (and free) mansion. Keira Knightley performs in yet another period drama and seems to borrow from the characters of her past films, such as Atonement (2007) and Anna Karenina (2013). Although Knightley is very good at the “lovey-dovey” stuff, sharing rare moments with both Jason Clark and Alexander Skarsgård that feel authentic, they still come across a little contrived.
Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård has taken a side-step from being the shirtless Tarzan of his past and has moved into the more serious role of being a shirtless German in The Aftermath. Australian actor Jason Clarke gives dimension to his character, by playing someone who is disconnected emotionally from his wife, but paradoxically very sympathetic to the vanquished Germans. Whilst I could not fault their performances, they were undermined by the alarmingly slow pace of the plot.
Despite this, honourable mentions must be made to the set design of Monica Alberte and costume design of Bojana Nikitovic. The mansion is full of beautifully designed art deco and Bauhaus pieces that infuse glamour into the havoc of post-World War II Germany. Alberte creates a striking contrast between the affluence that the occupying British live in and the apocalyptic and ruined streets that the German people inhabit. The costumes are beautifully crafted; Keira Knightley sauntering down the mansion’s staircase in elegant silk gowns and revealing black dresses that oozes sensuality and allure. The warm mood and sleek costumes do help set a tone for the very occasional fiery moment in the love triangle between Rachel, Lewis and Stefan.
Going into this film, I had high expectations, but unfortunately, they fell short. I feel that I have seen this film many times before and done better. Sadly, The Aftermath is forgettable and seems to want to recycle the dialogue and characters of past Knightley films.
The Aftermath is out in cinemas now!