Ridiculous doesn’t begin to describe James Kent’s “The Aftermath,” a post-WWII sudser about the languid affair between an English woman (Keira Knightley) and the German hunk (Alexander Skarsgard) whose home she and her emotionally vacant husband (Jason Clarke) take charge.

The setting is Hamburg, five months after the Allied victory. The city brims with crumbled buildings, burning cars and 25,000 citizens unaccounted. Like the marriage of Rachel (Knightley) and Lewis (Clarke), a British colonel, it (heavy-handed metaphor alert) needs rebuilding. The movie opens with Rachel’s arrival via train. It’s an awkward reunion, so cringe-y you wonder if the couple is really married.

They roll up to a stunning palatial estate adorned with marble statues and columns. It belongs to recent-widower Stefan Lubert (Skarsgard), an architect, and his troubled teenage daughter, Freda (Flora Thiemann). After the fall of the city, survivors are forced to surrender their homes to Allied officers and relocate to camps or other locations. Lewis, however, decides to offer Stefan and his daughter lodging on the top floor. Bad decision.

Every character lost something in the war. Rachel mourns the son she lost years earlier in the London Blitz. Rather than help his wife and face his own grief Lewis flees to the front, choosing to mask his pain with work. Stefan grieves for his wife; and Freda, her mother. Early on, the tension in the house is palpable as everyone fiddles to find their footing with new roommates. A bit with Rachel and an uncomfortable Bauhaus recliner is amusing, but scenes like that are fleeting.

Post-war chaos is a fertile backdrop to explore marital strife. Yet, the screenplay by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse - adapting Rhidian Brook’s novel - fails to go deep in exploring the difficulties and anxieties that arise in a climate of distrust and grief. This exploration merely elicits unintentional laughter, especially whenever the script calls for Rachel and Stefan to get sexy. It’s like a soap opera. Rachel hates Stefan because he’s German, and vice versa. At first, she’s scolding him not to “creep about the house,” and later, well, you can figure it out.

The supporting characters are not terribly fresh, either. Rachel does tea at a swank hotel with Susan (Kate Phillips), the wife of a boorish British officer, played by Martin Compston. Fionn O’Shea is Lewis’s driver. Freda gets involved with a young trouble-making Nazi loyalist (Jannik Schümann).

Kent (“Testament of Youth”) totally missteps when it comes to generating heat or passion, ditto for Knightley (“Colette”) and Skarsgard (HBO’s “Big Little Lies”). The visual imagery is far more striking, especially Knightley’s wardrobe. She can rock period clothing like nobody’s business. The gold halter-style evening gown she wears in the end usurps the entire movie. And when the clothes overshadow the story, well, you’ve got a problem. As a post-war love (and guilt) story, “The Aftermath” bombs.

Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@patriotledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“The Aftermath”

Cast: Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, Alexander Skarsgard.

(R for sexual content/nudity, and violence including some disturbing images.)

Grade: C