Debussy's Clair De Lune is arguably one of the most iconic pieces of classical music. Used in a recent trailer promoting Godzilla: King of the Monsters it had a staggering impact - and likewise The Aftermath employed the same spellbinding melody. However when I think about James Kent's latest drama, only a city levelling Kaju comes to mind. Either I'm just a sucker for Debussy or that says a lot about this weak but watchable war time romance.
Rachel Morgan is sent to Hamburg to live with her husband - a British army Colonel - during the post-war reconstruction of 1946. They take ownership of a German household but tensions soon arise when Rachel is drawn to house owner Stefan Lubert. The Aftermath will keep you confined to barracks however. This sexually frustrated war drama plants Keira Knightley in the middle of Jason Clarke and Alexander Skärsgard. Churning out an excruciating performance Knightley acts like a spoilt school girl who throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her own way. Following the death of her son during the war, Rachel travels to a blitzed Hamburg to reunite with her other half Lewis Morgan - but things soon turn sour as Rachel is swept away by housekeeper Stefan's hospitable charm.
This lustful drama is absent of any romantic energy, there is almost no connection between Knightley and her two lovers. The Aftermath tries to align us with Rachel but her character is absolutely horrible and in no way personable - the film tries to excuse this though, suggesting that her personal demons drive her unfaithful actions. There's a point where Knightley weeps behind a grand piano, lamenting over the loss of her little boy - the scene itself has some sense of anguish but I'm sorry to say that her performance gives those same sensations as nails on a chalkboard. Skarsgard offers some relief as Herr Lubert, initially polite and submissive to the English command his character becomes more complex when he begins to take interest in Rachel - Skarsgard even makes the physical scenes feel a little less wooden.
There is this clever idea of violation lying beneath the surface of The Aftermath but this is cast aside for a muted romance. With British soldiers tactlessly lauding over German citizens you are naturally wound up by disrespectful manners, but it's equally intriguing to see Skarsgard's down-to-earth character boil over in rage when pushed. There is an odd sub plot involving his daughter and the remaining Nazi's, but this sort of hovers in the atmosphere with little importance and doesn't really go anywhere.
The Aftermath is engaging escapism making use of some striking landscape shots of delicate snow topped trees of post-war Germany, however, it fails completely as a romantic thriller with a really poor and embarrassing effort from Knightley.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.