The Aftermath (2019)
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So, the two ideas and genres that the film attempts to balance and bring together are romantic drama and pure history, and it's the historical side that I'd like to start off with, because while the film features some fascinating historical themes, it also fails to capitalise on the genuinely enthralling potential of its setting.
Set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the film centres on the relations and tensions between the British occupiers and local German citizens, with emotions and suspicion still running high following six years of all-out war. In that, the film looks at both the continuing negative feelings between both peoples, brought to life early on by Keira Knightley, as well as the idea that, with the war over, there is no need for recriminations in the face of a rebuilding project for the better of all, which we see in Jason Clarke's character early on.
Now, while the movie does occasionally hit those beats in a little too on-the-nose (especially when compared with how the same ideas are presented in the brilliant Land Of Mine), it's not quite as clear-cut as you may expect. Subverting expectations by reversing the stereotypical roles and seeing the patriarch hold more sympathy to the Germans, with his wife holding onto more antagonistic feelings following the war, The Aftermath does offer up some genuinely intriguing historical discourse, which builds to fascinating and often even palpably tense heights towards the end of the first act.
However, the biggest disappointment about this film is that it doesn't follow through. Despite a strong start from the historical point of view, its second and third acts don't offer all that much more on the same plain, with focus shifting abruptly to a romance that, while perfectly pleasant and enjoyable, just doesn't have the depth or intrigue to prove really impressive.
Of course, that's not to say that the entire historical context goes out the window, and the romance that develops still focuses on the idea of relationships crossing political lines - similarly looked at in films like Suite Française. However, it's far closer to a generic period romance, rather than one that blends historical themes in to further what was developed earlier on.
As a result, the film grinds to a little bit of underwhelming halt as it edges towards a rather predictable finale. It's not a boring watch, and with strong performances from Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård, there is still intrigue and entertainment to find, but it all feels a rather frustrating and disappointing approach given the potential of the opening act's historical focus.
If you're looking for a nice romantic drama, this film can prove an enjoyable watch, but you'll have to wait quite a while for the romance to start in earnest. On the flipside, if you're looking for a historical drama that depicts the aftermath of the Second World War (as I was), the film starts off in strong fashion, but its move towards romance later on will likely leave you disappointed.
There is a love triangle and a predictable melodrama. The acting and scenery is great. The portrayal of the difficult life in Germany after the war is well shown and makes for a dramatic backdrop. It deserved a better film. But the story so leisurely unfolds that it lost me and after an hour the only thing I was interested in was the background.
If the story had been more closely shot in the ruins of the city then it might have improved. But the fancy living in the grand house in its perfect grounds insulated the story and the audience from its historical setting.
There are a couple of strong sex scenes, occasional serious violence and some bad language. Only patient adults are likely to have the temperament for it.
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.
A handsome and compelling production, I don't understand some of the poor reviews I've seen for this movie. Romantic films really aren't my thing but The Aftermath held my attention throughout its running time.
Great ending too.
Thought this was going to be a 9/10 and was ready to write my review as such but the ending changed that it's 10/10
If you enjoyed The English Patient you'll love this.
Set amongst the backdrop of the end of the Second World War in war ravaged Hamburg .
The story has a strong theme of forgivenesses shielded by the stiff upper lip of the English upper class .
The Socratic dialogue plays a strong part in examining right and wrong - in the end it doesn't matter who won the war - everyone lost and everyone has loss
The irony of the good guys killing more people than the bad guys and those who survive wanting revenge - but the central theme of forgiveness runs right through to the end and out of the destruction comes an opportunity for rebirth
A few months after VE Day, Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in Hamburg to join her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), who is serving as military governor. Hamburg is a shattered city, but on its outskirts is an undamaged, luxurious house own by widower Stefan Lubert and his teenaged daughter Freda. The house is requisitioned by the British military for the Morgans' use, but Lewis takes the unusual decision that the Luberts can continue living there. Stefan is cultured, charming and, as he is played by Alexander Skarsgård, a lot closer to Knightley's league in terms of looks than the more heavy-set Clarke. The rules of fiction dictate, therefore, that Rachael's icy resolve will soon give way and she will fall willingly into Stefan's arms. Stefan becomes so engrossed in Rachael that he is unaware Freda is becoming similarly engrossed in a handsome, but disturbingly intense, young left-over Nazi...
This is a good-looking film, with some cleverly-staged sequences: for instance, when Rachael and Lewis have an emotionally-charged discussion at a regimental dinner-dance, director James Kent silences the music and the chatter of other dancers, focussing the viewer's attention solely on the couple's words. But it is hard to engage with Rachael and Stefan: both have back-stories that should invoke sympathy: Rachael's young son was killed in the Blitz (allowing Knightley to turn in some good acting as she breaks down at the memory) and Stefan's wife died in the Allied bombing that destroyed Hamburg. But they are both so proper and correct (a couple of frantic couplings aside) that it is hard to find them interesting. By contrast, Lewis is a more fully-rounded character: the stereotypical stiff upper-lipped Briton with his wife, but showing real concern for the plight of the defeated Germans and almost uncontrollable anger when confronted by a taunting Nazi.
Another issue with the film is that so much attention is paid to the undeniably awful conditions in which Hamburg's citizens were forced to live following the Allied bombing - and the attitude of many of the British supporting characters is so boorish - that it is almost as if the film is trying to say it was the Allies, instead of the Axis, that were the aggressors of the Second World War.
So this could have been better, but it was worth watching once.
This is a well acted historical/romance drama. I think that the characters are overdressed at times,Keira is very well dressed which we might expect but the German lodger (Skarsgard) has a crazy amount of new looking outfits.
No plot spoilers but this is a touching human story.
The film is about an English woman (played by Keira Knightley) and her husband who is a colonel (Jason Clarke). They take up residence at a house in post World War II Germany. However, the couple decide to let they previous owners of the home to live with them. This starts an affair with the woman and the previous owner in a clandestine manner. The war time political feelings still run high which causes trouble for those involved. The film also stars Alexander Skarsgård.
The film was shot very well. The scenery and production design make the film look of the time and the costume design is also on point. Keira Knightley is a very reliable performer and she is no different here. The film just needed more than what was offered. I found the plot to be inexplicably weird. Oh yes, let me let the widowed really build young guy stay at home with my wife, while I go away for long periods of time. I think the affair part was done well but I didn't feel chemistry between the characters.
Its a really listless and forgettable film. It also feels uneven with the inclusion of Skarsgard's onscreen daughter and how that brings up a big climactic event. The film only looks the part but does not bring the quality. I'd like to see Keira Knightley in better things as apart from Colette last year, she has been in a string of bad things. The Aftermath is no different.
It is set in a post Second World War era very much ignored by film but does a good job showing how hard it must have been.
The plot is good and the story has some clever unforeseen twists. The pace of the film is about right and the acting and setting iare both quite good.
It is well worth a watch, You certainly get some empathy for the characters.
HOWEVER... For me, all of this good work was let down by one awful moment. If you don't like spoilers, stop reading now...
The scene in question involves British Army wife Rachael Morgan (Knightley) and German architect Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) - owner of the luxurious country house which the British forces of occupation have commandeered for Morgan and her solider husband. It's one of those "we're falling in love with each other but we're terribly conflicted about it so we're having a row" moments.
In a sudden outburst of emotion, Stefan launches himself at Rachael and - with considerable violence and absolutely no pretensions toward consent - physically restrains her while forcing her into a kiss.
Yes, I know it's supposed to demonstrate what a cauldron of pent-up passion is boiling in their respective breasts etc., but HONESTLY... in this post #MeToo age, is this kind of stuff even SLIGHTLY acceptable? I mean, what he does in that moment is nothing short of sexual assault. It was an ugly moment, utterly unnecessary to the plot and, for me at least, tainted an otherwise well-made tale. This story may be set in the 1940s, but that doesn't mean that in 2019 we should still be perpetuating the patriarchal cinematic tropes of that era. Scenes in which a man forces himself on a woman "out of passion" really belong in the dustbin of history.
After years of bitter war and effective propaganda we were shown, and without mercy, how both sides came to view the "other" as less than human and in the process became dehumanised to suffering on a near cataclysmic scale.
The movie played with four commonly assumed psychological realities; firstly that relationships rarely survive the loss of a child, secondly, the grieving process is a luxury and often the immediate need to carry on delays this process, thirdly no parent ever expects to bury their own child and lastly grief of all sorts numbs the soul to the needs of others.
This was a brilliantly styled movie that captured the pre-war Biedermeier period interiors and ravishing sets of knitwear seemingly from the hand of Coco herself. The camera succeeded in introducing a level of sensuality and faded decadence amongst the ruin and was masterfully achieved.
Rachel (Kiera Knightley), gave us a conflicted personality, torn by duty, grief and the gap between how life should had been and how life was due to the war. Her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), gave a masterfully suppressed performance, showing a man ripped asunder by war and grief, this was a class act and deeply affecting. Stephen (Alexander Skarsgård), dominated his scenes, the camera just loves this man's bone structure. The acting by the entire ensemble was first rate and why perhaps this movie left a lastly impression on the mind.
The end just did not sit well with the previously mentioned psychological backdrop but hey it was only the last three minutes and it did not ruin a wonderful evening.
The 3 Central Performances Were Great
James Kent's Strong Directing
Great Production Design And Cinematography
A Good Use Of A Piano For The Story
It's A Cliched And Predictable Romance
The Romances Doesn't Make Sense
The Ending Contradicts The Movie
The Pointless Daughter Subplot