The Water Diviner Film Review

The Water Diviner Film Review
First time directors dream about having an Oscar-winning cinematographer work with them, but it rarely happens. Being a successful movie actor, however, makes it easier to attract top talent. Such is the case with Russell Crowe and his directorial debut, “The Water Diviner”. Crowe was able to engage Andrew Lesnie, the director of photography for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” films, as his cinematographer. The result is a film that looks as expensive and accomplished as any studio release, although it is an Australian film made on a limited budget.

The title, “The Water Diviner”, refers to its main character, Joshua Connor, an Australian farmer with a special talent for locating underground springs. The use of the word “diviner” is also a clue suggesting the frequent spiritual images and metaphors contained in the film. Connor’s first scenes show him at the bottom of a well he has dug. He strikes water. Connor stays in the well as it fills, until he is fully immersed, suggesting a baptism.

Connor soon leaves his farm, though, in order to fulfill a promise made to his wife. He travels to Gallipoli, on the Turkish coastline, in order to find the bodies of his three sons. They have been presumed dead since 1915, when they fought with other Australian and New Zealand forces in the battle of Gallipoli. Connor has to contend with hostile army bureaucrats and an escalating conflict between Turkish and Greek nationalists in order to discover the fate of his children.

Crowe and his screenwriters, Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, present the viewpoints of both the Australian and the Turkish/Ottoman forces that fought at Gallipoli. The battle was actually a siege that lasted nearly 9 months and inflicted tremendous casualties. Major Hasan, a supporting character in the film, points out that while the Australians lost 10,000 men, the Turks lost 70,000 men. In flashbacks, we are shown both the suffering of the Connor boys on the battlefield, and the brutality of trench warfare as the Australians attack a group of Turkish soldiers.

Russell Crowe directs himself, as Joshua Connor, and the other actors in this film skillfully. He also uses music to good effect. The soundtrack is an interesting mix of western music and the music of Turkey. His desire to wrap up all the movie’s plot lines into one neat package at the end is, however, one of the film’s shortcomings. That being said, “The Water Diviner” is an impressive debut for Crowe as a director. It is also a fitting tribute to cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who died on April 27th, 2015. “The Water Diviner” is his last film.

“The Water Diviner” was filmed on location in Australia and Turkey. It was originally released in the US in 2015. It is rated R for brief scenes of graphic war violence. I watched this film on DVD at my own expense. Review posted on 8/14/2015.

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