The Aftermath | Chicago Reader
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The Aftermath

The value of Rhidian Brook's novel, from which this film is adapted, is the ground-zero view of firebombed post-World War II Hamburg by its surviving Germans—from starving street urchins, to middle-class adults who were not Nazi party members but who suffer all the burdens and humiliations of defeat nonetheless, to hostile teenagers who still revere Hitler and plot terrorist attacks against the Allied occupying forces. As one of the screenwriters, Brook presumably signed off on the massive changes made from his original work, but in so doing, he squandered the opportunity for a more nuanced film. After all the gutting of the book's supporting characters and backstories, what's left is a tastefully decorous love triangle between an English army commissioner in charge of rebuilding Germany in the UK zone (Jason Clarke); his emotionally damaged wife (Keira Knightley), still mourning the death of their son during a German bombing; and the widowed German architect (Alexander Skarsgård) whose stately home the victors requisition, but whom the British "guv'nor" magnanimously invites to stay on, since there's way too much room there for just him and the missus. Knightley's character is—hello!—more sympathetic and sensual than in the novel, while Clarke's is more one-dimensional, to the point of caricature. Only Skarsgård is persuasive as a bereft man trying to make the best of his diminished circumstances, who against all reason finds himself falling for the officer's wife. The production design is superb; unsurprisingly, the film spends as little time among the ruins as possible, lingering instead on the luscious moderne interiors of the architect's mansion on the Elbe. James Kent (Testament of Youth) directed.



  • James Kent


  • Alexander Skarsgård
  • Keira Knightley
  • Jason Clarke
  • Alexander Scheer
  • Ned Wills
  • Pandora Colin
  • Anna Schimrigk
  • Jack Laskey
  • Fionn O'Shea
  • Kate Phillips
  • Martin Compston
  • Mirco Kuball
  • Rosa Enskat
  • Frederick Preston
  • Flora Li Thiemann
  • Monika Foris
  • Logan Hillier
  • Jannik Schümann
  • Jim High
  • Roman Vejdovec
  • Halka Jerabek Tresnakova
  • Henry Pettigrew
  • Tom Bell
  • Joseph Arkley
  • Abigail Rice
  • Naomi Frederick
  • Ivan Shvedoff
  • Pip Torrens


  • Anna Waterhouse
  • Joe Shrapnel
  • Rhidian Brook


  • Carlo Dusi
  • David Greenbaum
  • Jack Arbuthnott
  • Joe Oppenheimer
  • Malte Grunert
  • Pavel Muller
  • Ridley Scott
  • Sarah Wheale

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