The water diviner (2014)
“Are there any more records about my son?
We are Ottomans, not Germans. “
It looks like “Russell Crowe movie week” here. After “Fathers and daughters” I had to check his directorial debut. And to be honest, I thought this postwar dramatic film was much better than the sugarcoated “Fathers and daughters“. In both films the father figure plays an important role. In “The Water Diviner” however, he’s a grieving father whose sons were killed in the Battle of Gallipoli, which took place in Turkey during the 1st World War. A bloody battle, on a piece of land as large as a handkerchief, between Turkish troops and a corps with Australian and New Zealand troops (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC). It’s beyond dispute that wars provide disgusting scenes which once again demonstrate the absurdity of such tragedies. The agony of the three brothers on the battlefield was the most unpleasant and difficult part of the entire movie. It was so terrible to watch. I really had enough of it at a given time. The relevance was clear to me. It wasn’t clear to me why it had to take so miserable long.
Apart from a few hiccups, I thought it was a fairly successful film. Looking at the technical side of the movie, you could say it was excellent. Perhaps it seemed to be a dramatized travel documentary at times. But the palette of colored fabrics and the interior view of Turkish mosques assured some visually stunning images. The phenomenal scene in Australia, where Connor (Russell Crowe) protects his three sons against an impressive sandstorm, was a breathtaking moment. And this impressive imagery is used throughout this reasonable epic adventure story. It resembled a bit “The Physician“. In this case it’s someone from downunder who gazes at the traditions, the folklore and the beauty of Istanbul. Naturally this leads to intercultural conflicts with a few yelling Turks, who defend their values, and a fleeing Aussie.
The historical side was also fascinating. I don’t know that much about the 1st World War. And certainly not about what happened in the Arab part of the world. The Turkish community wasn’t happy about welcoming Australian tourists afterwards. This was also presented realistic. At the same time the cooperation between the ANZAC and Turkish Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) also didn’t proceed so smoothly and the intense hatred again resurfaced. And just let me mention the scene at the beginning with the local priest who has a huge problem with the burial of Connor’s wife, because she committed suicide apparently. A strong moment. A proof that the short-sightedness and insensitivity remained intact through the years.
Altogether it’s a wonderful debut from Crowe. And this combined with a not so bad leading role. The role Erdogan played was also noteworthy. A calm Turkish Major who forgets his grievances and offers his help to identify the tens of thousands of victims without hesitation. And additionally also aid Connor with his search for his lost sons. Dylan Georgiades plays the role of son Orhan enthusiastically. While the ultra-cool Olga Kurylenko gives shape to the widow Ayshe. An exotic beauty who’s aloof at first, but as the film progresses her icy attitude slowly melts.
And now it’s time for the disappointing elements of this yet fascinating film. The “station novel”-like love story that was incorporated, wasn’t really necessary according to me. The fact that it’s about two individuals from two different cultures and each bearing a loss due to the war, sounds plausible. But they should have left it at that. The paranormal talent Connor supposedly possessed, was grossly exaggerated. Sure, maybe he can find water in the bone-dry Australian desert by using a twig. I’m willing to believe that. But him standing in the middle of a battlefield in a sort of trance surrounded by the rotting remains of thousands of victims and miraculously finding the location where his sons are lying, was a bit ridiculous. And then the Indiana Jones imitation in the end, clashed a bit with the rest of the film. But the biggest annoyance was the sound. The dramatic music and sound effects were terribly noisy. By contrast, the conversations were at whisper level. I had a sore thumb afterwards because I had to use continuously the volume button. But ultimately it was still a magnificent movie.