Set in postwar Germany in 1946, Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in the ruins of Hamburg in the bitter winter, to be reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an unexpected decision: They will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Aftermath lacks passion and romanticism within its illicit love triangle.
Certainly with every WWII film I review, I consistently state how saturated the genre is. Well, that's because it is. Every year we see four or five released, with many fairly formulaic. Whilst this bolsters a clichéd theme of betrayal and lust, it does however utilise its war-torn environment to encapsulate the struggles of both British forces and German civilians. After their arrival in the ruins of Hamburg, a British couple are forced to share a grand house with its previous owners who are German.
Acting as a microcosm for the conflict of interest against the two oppositions, the house is quickly divided into zones so that they don't interfere with each other. The colonel's absence only leads to his wife's longing for love, essentially turning enmity into passion. It's an interesting environment, and director Kent makes full use of each room to symbolise the loss of the luxurious lives that they once had. Both families have suffered from personal loss during the war, you're supposed to feel empathetic towards them, and occasionally you do. However due to Rachael mostly being portrayed as a selfish socialite, you somewhat feel distanced from her. It's a story about betrayal, yet her character's romance feels underdeveloped. The initial sexual tension was practically non-existent. It just happened. One moment she hates the Germans, the next in love with one. The change of pace made for a jarring transition, and that's without mentioning the several scenes of newly-discovered burnt bodies in Hamburg, acting as a heavy reminder that you are watching a war drama.
It all comes down to the screenplay which lacks that heft and meat to make these characters come to life. A dire shame as all three lead actors were exquisite. Knightley, in all her pouting glory, looked stunning and had one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen her act in. I genuinely felt raw vulnerability for her character as she breaks down whilst playing the piano. Both Clarke and Skarsgård supported her well and gave efficient performances. The costumes were delightful and Phipps' classical score was lovely to listen to, enhancing the grandeur of its central abode. Just the clichéd affair and its underdevelopment diminishes the central premise of this story. It's tasteful and occasionally exhumes steamy passion, which will quench the thirst for fans of the period drama sub-genre, but lacking that definable quality which will leave many wanting more. Watchable and enjoyable nonetheless.
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