The Water Diviner Blu-ray Review
THE WATER DIVINER is a confident film. It knows exactly what it wants to accomplish and it gets it done. Actor Russell Crowe tackled this project as his directorial debut. This must have been a passion piece since it deals with Australia and New Zealand. That’s where he lives and his birthplace respectively. Crowe acts better than he directs, but it is a commendable first effort.
The film says right away it is loosely based on a true story. Loosely is the operative term since it is based on few sentences in a journal about an Australian man coming to Turkey to look for his dead children from World War I. The screenwriters took it from there and filled in the blanks as it were. The title character Joshua Connor is played by Crowe, an Australian farmer who knows how to find water in even the most barren of lands. We see him in 1919 after the end of World War I. His wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) is still distraught that they still don’t know what happened to their three children in the war. She forces Joshua to read to three empty beds. After her suicide, he makes it his mission to find his boys and bring them home to be buried.
The three boys were a part of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). They participated in the Battle of Gallipoli. This was a particularly brutal and bloody battle that lasted months. It was a huge victory for the Ottoman Empire who was paired with the German in this war and they repelled forces that included men from Australia, New Zealand, France, Great Britain and a host of other countries. This went on from April of 1915 to January of 1916. It was before the United States even got into the war. Winston Churchill himself was one of the engineers of this campaign and it nearly sunk his career. That is the backdrop for Joshua as he arrives in the area a few years later.
Joshua comes to Istanbul where he meets Aysha (Olga Kurylenko) and her son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) at her hotel that she runs. Aysha’s husband has been missing for years and she still holds out hope that he will return alive. Their relationship is frosty at first as she doesn’t want her son to get involved with this foreigner. This eventually thaws as she is compelled by his story of love for his sons.
Joshua gets all sorts of roadblocks as he searches for his sons. The region is still quite dangerous and the task of identifying the dead is quite momentous. He gets an unlikely ally in Major Hassan (Yilmaz Erdogan), a Turkish officer who was on the opposite side of his sons in the battle. He is helping the British in burial retrieval. Much of the film deals with Joshua and Hassan starting to understand each other and relate what they lost.
The cinematography is done by the late great Andrew Lesnie. He did The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hobbit films. The vastness of Australia is breathtakingly captured and the streets of Turkey are brimming with commotion. Crowe was able to film in The Blue Mosque for the first time and it is well worth the wait. The battle scenes are also done with great care and detail.
The romantic stuff in THE WATER DIVINER is a bit corny but understated. This is ultimately about one man’s mission and the acceptance of different cultures. It also touches on seeing war from different sides. Everyone assumes that they are on the just side of a war and sometimes it isn’t always black and white.
Video: Australia and Turkey looking stunning on video.
Audio: The sound was adequate and got the job done.
The Making of The Water Diviner (21:48): This feature covers quite a bit. The script, casting and training are touched upon. Costumes, weapons, stunts, editing, scoring are also gone over. Crowe speaks the most in this with the other actors chiming in as well. The last couple of minutes feature the trailer for the film.
The Battle of Gallipoli (7:52): Crowe is once again your tour guide in this feature. You learn about the bloody battle and all it entails. ANTAC is explained. The Ottoman Empire and an alternate title for Gallipoli is discussed. We also learn the inspiration for the film.