Stars: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Uilmaz Erdogan
The Water Diviner is another historical look at World War I but set in the Middle East. Directed by Russell Crowe (his debut directorial picture) and starring Russell Crowe in the lead role, it is an intense and heart-wounding journey.
Unfortunately, the movie has a limited release in the United States. I only found one of two theaters in the Portland, Oregon area showing the film. If it’s not at a theater near you, make sure to rent the DVD and put it on your watch list.
It’s the story of a man named Joshua Connor from Australia, who travels to Turkey after the war and the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate the bodies of his three missing sons – Arthur, Henry, and Edward. The brothers enlisted on the same day, fought in the same battle, and died together. The movie is a mixture of current events and replays of the former battles as it moves through the storyline. The battle scenes are intense, and the loss of life heart-wrenching. It is not an easy movie to watch but worth it for the sake of the drama and the history.
Joshua Connor has a gift of being a water diviner. He is able to find water by two small rods in each hand that eventually point to the spot where he begins to dig a well. Just as his gift of finding water in the ground, he has an uncanny gift of discerning where the bodies of his boys are buried in a vast landscape of forgotten corpses left on the battlefield. When he first arrives in Turkey, he is told by the British to forget his search and return home. However, he defies their refusal to help and finds his way to where his sons died in battle.
Immersed in an Islamic culture, he learns to acclimate himself to the history, people, and the once great Ottoman Empire. Turkey has been defeated and is now occupied by Britain while the Greeks fight the Turks for another portion of their homeland. During his stay in Istanbul, he resides at a modest hotel and becomes intertwined with the lives of one family.
Russell Crowe did a splendid job of both directing and acting in this film. It costars Olga Kurylenko (who has a striking resemblance to a younger Catherine Zeta-Jones). Yilmaz Erodgan plays Major Hasan, a Turk whose life has been changed by the war’s outcome as he struggles, along with other nationalists, to keep their Turkish identity and nationalism. The film was shot on location in a ghost town, Kayakoy in southwest Turkey.
Russell Crowe, as you know, is Australian. The Australians celebrate the battles of Gallipoli on April 25th, even though they were battles of defeat with massive loss of lives. It apparently is a matter of identity for both Australia and New Zealand. Young men, in the rather new independent nations joined forces to make their country proud. Unfortunately, 10,000 died in this particular conflict. Here is a link to an interesting article about Gallipoli and the Australian’s day of remembrance. CLICK HERE
The movie won Best Picture in the Australian Film Institute 2015 awards, as well as Best Costume Design. Yilmaz Erdogan won best supporting actor. The film is obviously well received in Australia but received mixed reviews in the United States.In the end, the film states that 27 million servicemen worldwide died during WWI and then leaves this final thought:
“This film is dedicated to all those who remain ‘lost and nameless’ and who live on in the hearts and memories of their families.
To my surprise, I discovered in my recent ancestry search of my own family roots, that my 2nd cousin 2 times removed died in the same battle. In his memory, I leave his name:
Name: Thomas Douglas Holland
Birth Place: Salford, Lancs
Death Date: 5 Jun 1915
Death Place: Gallipoli
Enlistment Place Manchester
Regiment Manchester Regiment
Battalion 1st 6th Battalion
Regimental Number 1851
Type of Casualty Killed in Action
Theatre of War Balkan Theatre