A few years ago, a sprawling war romance TESTAMENT OF YOUTH captured the heart and awed moviegoers. Its acclaimed director, James Kent has understandably been handpicked for another war themed romantic drama entitled THE AFTERMATH. THE AFTERMATH is based on the novel of the same name by Rhidian Brook. It should be noted that the novel was written after Brook’s screenplay was commissioned by one of the producers, BLADE RUNNER’s Ridley Scott. The script is written by Joe Shrapnel and Ana Waterhouse.
The story is set in postwar Germany in 1945. The film begins with an aerial scanning in black and white of a war torn city that is revealed to be Hamburg of 1945. It is later stated that more bombs landed in Hamburg one day than all the bombings in London.
Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in the ruins of Hamburg in the dead of winter, to be reunited with her husband, Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), a colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. Germans in Hamburg are angry as evident in the violent protests around the city. Many of the more determined citizens are willing to sacrifice their lives to do away with the British. 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 owner, a German widower, a past architect, Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter, Freda. It does not take genius to guess that Rachel will start a tempestuous affair with the architect. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.
The film is clear to emphasize the differences in the attractiveness of both men, Morgan and Lubert. Morgan is ruffled, disheveled and makes frequent comments angering Rachel. Even Morgan’s military uniform is not smart or pressed but wrinkled. This is compared with Lubert’s attire. Lubert is always shown smartly dressed, always wearing a shirt and tie even at leisure in the house. His immaculate white sweater (who wears a white sweater to a dirty cottage in the middle of winter?) in the cottage scene looks ridiculous.
All actors carry their eclectic roles well. Knightley is British and Clarke, Australian has proven he can carry other non-Australian roles well. He was excellent as Ted Kennedy in CHAPPAQUIDDICK and is more than in apt in this role that demands more from him than required from the other actors. Swede Skarsgard has the distinguished German look and is sufficiently hunky to sweep any married woman of their feet.
The production design is worthy mention from the vehicles to the interior setting of the architect’s stunning residence. The period atmosphere with cinematography by Franz Lustig is worth the film’s price of admission.
Kent’s film ends up as a sprawling romantic drama that could have been more effective if the film emphasized certain parts instead of playing everything with uniform importance.