The passion and longing of classic Hollywood cinema arrives on the big screen with plenty of eroticism in whirlwind romantic thriller The Aftermath and it certainly provides plenty of intrigue for audiences.
The Aftermath is 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.
Set following the end of World War II in the bombed-our ruins of Hamburg, Germany where the horrors of war have net yet subsided, director James Kent opens audiences up to an intriguing narrative that pulls at the emotions of its audience and places them in a complicated romantic love triangle. Taking the lead is Keira Knightley as Rachael Morgan, a haunted English woman who has been sent for by her husband Colonel Louis Morgan (Jason Clarke), a British Army officer who has been left to supervise Hamburg’s surrender, and the actress finds herself in a role that is both familar to, as well as being unlike anything she has played before.
While Knightley is accustomed to the workings of period drama and the heightened tension that such cinema brings, here she really brings a different part of herself to the big screen. When we first meet her Rachael is haunted and broken with a deep loss from the war and the atmosphere of Hamburg and her distant relationship with Louis only makes this more intense. There’s a real isolation to Knightley’s performance here and the film’s deep winter setting only intensifies this. What we see on screen is a woman who is really not herself and almost at the point of giving up on any notion of happiness. It’s a very brave performance for Knightley to take on and she really commits herself to the role and as the film moves forward you’re drawn into her characters development.
But in the cold of this bombed out city, Rachael is able to find solace in Alexander Skarsgard’s mysterious Stefan Lubert, a refined and cultured German architect who has faced his own losses and who holds his own demons. While the relationship between Knightley and Skarsgard starts off as a rather antagonistic affair, passions soon rise to the surface and a deep, loving chemistry blossoms between the two of them. On camera, Knightley and Skarsgard make for a beautiful couple both from their brunette/blonde complexion to the softness that grows between the two of them. It’s easy to see why their characters fall for each other and the risk of discovery makes their affair that much more racey.
With a couple as hot as this, The Aftermath quickly moves into the fast lane and things get steamy fast. The Aftermath is a deeply erotic film and things do get hot under the covers between our two lovers. But all of it is handled in a classical and graceful manner thanks to Kent’s direction. While there is plenty of skin shown-off by both Knightley and Skarsgard, their eventual lovemaking is shot with an eye honed into the beauty of their shared passion and it’s setting, and a heavy use of white light and soft focus gives their shared embrace a deep sensuality.
Adding to the romantic longing of The Aftermath is the film’s winter setting which with its crisp whites and sharp blues really pulls you into the romance that grows between Rachael and Stefan. But while their love may be complete bliss, audiences are also reminded of the harsh realities of the war that was just fought and there are moments where out of nowhere shocking violence erupts. The Aftermath is definitely a balance between burning passions and shocking thrills and both keep the audience completely on edge in a film that is definitely a period piece done well.
Intelligent, classy and deeply alluring, The Aftermath is a film that will make your blood run high thanks to its narrative of dangerous passions.
Image: 20th Century Fox