'Aftermath': Alexander Skarsgard plays the "conflicted and guilt-ridden" German dealing with World War II
Director James Kent's 'Aftermath' might not have been what it had promised to be with its utterly boring portrayal of an era which is till date considered to be a significant turning point in human history. Based on the titular novel by Rhidian Brook, Fox Searchlight Pictures had acquired the film reportedly back in 2016, and the film was set to be directed by Kent from a screenplay written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, with Ridley Scott handling production duties, under his Scott Free Productions banner. However, what continues to remain the most fascinating aspect of the movie is that it is the story of an unconventional hero.
Unlike most movies that have based their stories on World War II, such as 'The Pianist', 'Atonement', 'The Book Thief', and 'Dunkirk', 'Aftermath' has carefully chosen to tell the story of the side which was considered as the enemy. Starring Alexander Skarsgard as the handsome German widower, Stefan Lubert, 'Aftermath' focuses on the lives of those Germans who literally had to bear the consequences of the war without even being a part of it. Lubert's late wife came from a wealthy family, who were supporters of Nazis, and while it was that very family who helped Lubert purchase his palace-like home, Lubert himself was strictly against Hitler's policy.
However, after the war is over and the allied groups had managed to defeat the Nazis, Lubert- like many other German aristocrats- is compelled to hand over his mansion to a British General, played by Jason Clarke, and his beautiful but bored wife, Rachel, played by Keira Knightley. Skarsgard, during an interview with GBPNews, elaborated upon the unconventional portrayal of the aftermath of the war. He stated, "You rarely see characters like Stefan, who is a complicated character. He, himself, didn't believe in the ideology of what Hitler and the Nazi Party stood for. But he also let his - the money in the family came from his late wife's family that were members of the Nazi Party...So when we meet him, he's very conflicted and guilt-ridden."
Lubert's tragedy lies in the fact that he is a proclaimed villain who has done nothing wrong. He was never involved in the war, he did not believe in Hitler's intolerance, and most of all, he was never aware of the concentration camps which ruthlessly wiped out a large portion of humanity. Skarsgard, talking about the most powerful scene in the movie, where Lubert is forced to see the massacre through pictures, explained, "it's, obviously, very difficult for Stefan because he felt deep down that he didn't do anything wrong. He might not have known about the camps, but he definitely blames himself for not investigating that more." However, in the end Lubert is not a man interested in politics, he is a husband who simply wants to go back to the days when his wife was alive.
Skarsgard picked up Lubert's vulnerable state with utter precision, and kindness and the actor revealed that he was absolutely fascinated by the character, "Well, I was just fascinated by the character and the complexity of him. And I don't subscribe to the notion that the world is black and white. It's not a "Star Wars" movie. It's not, we're the good rebels, and we're fighting the dark side." That is the very charm of 'Aftermath'. Although monotonous in execution, the movie has brought out an extremely fresh perspective on the war, and through Lubert it tried to explain the situation of all those who were subjected to despise solely for the reason that they belonged to a particular nation. 'Aftermath came out in the UK and Irish cinemas on March 1, 2019, but the US audience will have to wait till March 15 for the film to finally appear on the big screen. Watch the trailer below: