The Aftermath: Masterpiece (Mathterpiece?) Theatre ← That’s A Half-Compliment Edition!
The good half goes to the hamstrung trio at the heart of this love triangle; Keira Knightley (is she considered a top-tier actor? Not a mere movie star — a bonafide ACTOR? If not, for shame!), Alexander Skarsgård (in two movies released on the same day!), and Jason Clarke (the busiest face in Hollywood whose name most don’t know; come try your hand at New York theatre, Jason — I want to see if…er…how your presence translates to the stage!) are the only members of the artistic team who strike the tone the whole enterprise seems to be targeting: a trip down celluloid memory lane, back to the epoch of World War II melodramas (of course it’s shot — and clearly lit — digitally, because why pay attention to the finer details?).
This thespian trinity steeps their properly manicured, mannered performativity in a stylish, stylistic nostalgia almost intrinsic to the genre, the sort that stems more from film history than history that was ever actually lived. They embody the melodramatic tenet that theatricality and subtlety are not mutually exclusive; the genre mines where the twain shall meet, digging into subtle interiority through external theatrics.
Unfortunately, the triumvirate are the only diggers to show up for the mine meeting.
What’s a melodrama without aesthetic resplendence, without lush surfaces to get lost in — thematically, interpretatively, emotionally, experientially, immersively, texturally, tonally? For all the cast’s suppressed and simmering passion brimming, bubbling, and bursting in concentrated fireworks from the confines — character and aesthetic — of their florid lives, the movie manages to minimize their contributions; heck, it even squanders the sexual tension latent in the sensual energy of their respective and collective sex appeal.
The filmmaking, from top to bottom, fails to conjure the genre’s requisite cinematic splendor. It’s like a Terrence Rattigan knockoff, or Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor…without Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor (but with superior acting, a low bar to clear). In other words: it feels like a cheap, tacky imitation, lacking the juxtaposed inside-outside interplay that’s a hallmark of melodrama, failing to tap into most of what has always made the genre so indelible, and stranding Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Jason Clarke without an overarching framework to house, support, and deepen their performance.
STRAY TAKE: Given the current predilection for drawing parallels between Nazi Germany and today’s sociopolitical climate, prepare for a barrage of WWII movies with not-so-veiled messages pertaining to #Relevant #Important #Issues. This year’s offerings that concern the subject: Who Will Write Our History?, The Invisibles, Prosecuting Evil, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, Rezo, and Transit (to a degree; explainer coming soon) — and another, The Last, hits theaters before the end of the month. While the industry’s on the topic, may I suggest looking at the the fallout — sorry, AFTERMATH — of WWI, specifically the Weimar Republic and the crippling reparations the League of Nations imposed on Germany that, in their AFTERMATH, created the vacuum exploited by Hitler.