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Trivia / Goofs
Summary / Analysis
Times of India
The film is set in the immediate aftermath of World War 1. At his wife Eliza's (McKenzie) urging, Joshua (Crowe) travels from Australia to Turkey to locate and recover the remains of their three soldier sons who fell in Gallipoli. Eliza is mentally affected by the loss of her kids and Joshua is wracked with guilt for letting them go and fight in the war.
Crowe's feature film directorial debut is an amalgam of two fairly distinct narratives blended together. One is Joshua's trip to Turkey to unearth the remains of his children. A humble water diviner, he faces a lot of resistance in this regard from Captain Charles Brindley (Wyllie), an archetypal pompous officer. But the Australian (ANZAC) Lt-Col Cyril Hughes (Courtney, wonderfully nuanced and mustachioed) is willing to bend the rules. He also strikes up an unlikely friendship with Major Hasan (Erdoğan) of the Turkish Army.
Joshua is led by the hand of fate in the form of a boy named Orhan (Georgiades) to a hotel run by his mother Ayshe (Kurylenko, ravishing) to stay at while Connor goes about his search.
Crowe's character is the typical strong, silent type - he can play this role with consummate ease by now. We also see token political messages thrown in, such as flashes of Turkish nationalist sentiment, resentment regarding British military presence and invading Greeks out for a sizable slice of Turkey.
Then there is the blossoming love story between Joshua and Ayshe that is telegraphed from the minute they inhabit the same frame. Ayshe has her own issues but her effect on Joshua occasionally steers Diviner into mush-fest territory. Some parts also resemble a tourism promo for 'Exotic Turkey'. This is not to say, however, that the camera work capturing old Istanbul (Andrew Lesnie, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) is not gorgeous. The Gallipoli battlefield scenes are also haunting. Truth be told, Crowe's undeniable screen presence adds gravity to the film and he manages to make you empathize with his grief and the doggedness of his search, against all odds.
Key members of the Australian crew and cast then travelled to Turkey for a three week shoot, both in iconic locations in Istanbul, and in ancient sites on the Mediterranean coast. A sizable Turkish crew and many cast members joined the production, and there was an instant bond formed, helped by the eagerness of all the team to make the production process smooth and the scenes memorable.
Russell Crowe reportedly was keen on Cem Yilmaz playing the role he did in the film as they two new each other.
We see Crowe riding a horse back on his farm, as he rides to the aid of his kids who are trapped in a dust storm.
Gallipoli has frequently been represented on Australian (and international) screens. Within weeks of the landings in 1915, two re-creations were staged by Australian film companies. It has taken a long time for a film around the ANZAC legend to be created in Australia that wasn’t focused on the iconic nature of the battle story, but that sought to pursue the intimacy and poignancy of one man’s search for his son. The film takes that search as it’s starting point and importantly also sees the battle and its aftermath from both sides, and in a broader context. In fact, the film opens not with the ANZACs, but with the Turks - like the Allies, they are a mixture of veteran soldiers, and ‘terrified boys’. The experience was about devastating trauma, on both sides.
In the course of researching a project on Australian history, Melbourne based author and screenwriter Andrew Anastasios came across a letter from a man named Cyril Hughes, a lieutenant Colonel who was an integral part of the Imperial War Graves unit bringing order to the abandoned battlefield at Gallipoli, in the years immediately after the First World War. In that letter was an intriguing line - “One old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son’s grave.” That one line was all the inspiration needed to spur the creation of an incredible story of overwhelming loss, and overwhelming love.
The dog used in the opening scene is Russell Crowe's own dog and was asked to lose weight for the role.
The horse that Russell Crowe rides in the scenes shot in Australia is actually his own horse named Honey.
The Water Diviner is Russell Crowe's directorial debut.
During a TV show, Yilmaz Erdogan said that it was 49 degrees Celsius when they were shooting some scenes in Australia.
The movie’s battle flashbacks show the battle between the Turks and the ANZAC forces happening during hot weather. But a reading of history about battle conditions at the time reportedly mentions that it was actually quite cold at that time of year, which was in December.
The Water Diviner is set in 1919, right after the conslucion of the Great War. Joshua Connor lives in an Australian farm and is also blessed with the ability to locate water in often arid areas. His wife Eliza gives him a lot of grief about the fact that their three sons Art (Ryan Corr), Edward (James Fraser) and Henry (Ben O'Toole) left to fight in the war as part of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces during the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey and the Dardanelles five years prior. They had not returned and are missing presumed dead. Eliza becomes mentally affected by the sense of loss and loses all hope in her husband being able to "bring them back". She is shown to be a religious woman and goes to church every Sunday, but commits suicide one day. Joshua, already burdened with the awareness of his missing sons, now is deal another blow by the loss of his life. In his own words, he finds that he has nothing left to live for. Eliza's last wish was for him to bring back their bones so that they can be interred on sacred ground, next to their mother's grave.
He heads to Turkey by ship (these were the days before long distance air travel) and is led by a boy (more like the boy steals his bag and leads Joshua to his mother's hotel) to the place managed by Ayshe. She at first refuses him a room when he tells her that he is Australian but her brother-in-law (who also intends to marry her in the aftermath of her husband's death in the war) tells her that they need the business. Joshua then contacts a high ranking British military officer in Istanbul and he is informed that Gallipoli is a no-go for anyone who is not military personnel. While this is happening though, Ayshe becomes friendlier with Joshua when she realises that he has lost his wife and sons and is searching for the remains of the latter. She advises him to bribe a fisherman from a local village and that will allow him to make his way to Gallipoli.
Joshua makes the trip according to her advice and reaches Gallipoli. Over there, he is met with other forms of opposition. The ANZAC are busy cataloguing and giving their dead a proper burial. Civilians are forbidden from entering this area. However Major Hasan tells Lt-Col Cyril Hughes that he should to allow Connor to stay and look for his sons, since he is the only father who has come back to look for them. We then find out via a series of flashbacks that the three teenagers were killed together. Later on in the movie, when Joshua finds Art alive, he tells Joshua that he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding shell and falls, with his leg injured. His two brothers rushed out to help him and fire at Turkish lines. Both of them were mowed down with multiple bullets by a Lewis machine gun. One is killed with his face also shot off while the other is mortally wounded with his abdomen ripped open. One of the ANZAC men tell Joshua that the Turks shot his kids in the head, but in actuality, Art put an end to his suffering brother's life at the latter's final request.
Joshua, now on the old battlefield, reminisces about his sons. The men find two sets of remains bearing the dog tags of the two boys. A third set of remains is not found. After Joshua assaults Major Hasan for allegedly ordering the execution of survivors, they are separated. But Hasan goes to Joshua's tent and tells him about an old Turkish saying that it is the worst thing for a parent to live beyond their children. Joshua apologizes and Hasan hands him a slip of paper with the Connor surname, clear evidence that Art was taken prisoner.
Connor heads to Ayshe's hotel where she is celebrating her son, Orhan's ritual circumcision. Sometime later, Connor pushes away Ayshe's brother-in-law when the latter hits her. He does not know that she had hit him first after they had an argument. With his self-respect outraged, he sets on Joshua with three other men in the street outside the hotel but is saved by Sergeant Jemal (YÄ±lmaz) who then takes Connor to Major Hasan.
Jemal and Hasan explain to Joshua that the Greeks have invaded and the Turks are going to war to defend their country. They appeal to the British for help but the British, as diplomatic as ever, hedge about it and don't want to get involved. Joshua meanwhile is galvanised into action in the hope that his third son might still be alive. Joshua escapes from the hotel just as the British come to get him loaded on a boat back to Australia. He escapes thanks to Ayshe giving him a route by the roof and joins the Turks, who are going to fight the Greeks.
The train is ambushed by Greeks and in the fight, Jemal is killed. Joshua however manages to rescue Hasah, who is about to be shot and executed. The two then become close friends and decide to ride together after sharing a fifth of Greek ouzo. In a Turkish village, Joshua sees a water well that looks like something Art might have built as he was taught so many years ago by their father. He heads to a stone room and finds his son Art, alive. Art is alive but because of the sum total of his past wartime experiences he is both dazed and confused.
It is during this meeting that Art tells his dad what really happened on the battlefield (euthanizing his brother etc). Even as he finishes recounting the tale, the Greeks are overrunning the town Art shows his father an escape route in the form of a trap door leading into a river. Art initially doesn't want to go but when Joshua tells him that they can either go together or die in this town, Art relents. They escape the Greek army and return to Ayshe's hotel. The film concludes with Art finding love with of of the girls in the hotel and Ayshe making some very sweet coffee for Joshua that signifies that she loves him and is ready to start life anew with him.