Friday, January 27, 2023

‘The Water Diviner’ – A masterpiece sans ‘X’ factor

By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “The Water Diviner”; Cast: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Cem Yilmaz, Jai Courtney, Ryan Corr, James Fraser, Ben O’Toole, Isabel Lucas, Dan Wyllie, Jacqueline Mckenzie and Dylan Georgiades; Director: Russell Crowe; Rating: ***

Dedicated to the memory of all those nameless people who died or were lost during the World War I, “The Water Diviner” is based on true events that occurred nearly a century ago.

It is the poignant tale of a bereaved Australian farmer who travels all the way to Gallipoli in Turkey, to get the remains of his three sons who went there to fight. They are now missing and presumed dead.

Packed with the strappings of an epic, actor Russell Crowe’s maiden directorial venture, “The Water Diviner” is a complex tale of love and hope.

Blessed with the power of dowsing — a type of divination — employed in attempts to locate ground water, Joshua Connor is prodded by his grief-stricken wife Eliza with, “It’s been four years, you can find water but you can’t find your own children. You lost them.”

Hurt with this accusation, he promises her that he would find them and get them home. So he sets out on a mission, after her death.

Joshua travels to Turkey and after an initial hurdle at the immigration; he finds fate intervening with his plans. He is guided by his dowsing ability, a dream, coffee reading and unlikely allies like a Turkish Officer, Major Hasan and a young widow Ayshe who owns a hotel in Istanbul.

Technically, the film is brilliantly crafted. The war scenes are graphic and gruesome, especially when the three brothers are struck. The painful groan of Henry is haunting and blood curdling. And it gets repulsive when the scene is repeated as flashback.

Shot with wide angle lenses, the visuals by cinematographer Andrew Lesnie capture the pristine beauty of the virgin landscapes of Turkey and Australia. His atmospheric lighting that created the earthy golden hued frames depicts the period aesthetically. Unfortunately, the post war scenes in Turkey, particularly the market place are clichAżd, but the camera movements make it interesting to view.

What elevates this viewing experience is the background score given by David Hirschfelder. While the drum beats from the first frame onwards are haunting, the score gathers momentum during the sandstorm scene in Australia making it an over-dramatic piece.

The Turkish folk song, “Hey Fifteen Year Olds” sung by Jemal, Major Hasan’s right hand man is lively and well-integrated into the script.

Unfortunately, the film falters at the scripting level where the screenplay is plotted with fuzzy logic. The scenes are treated in a perfunctory manner. The director does not delve into building the characters emotionally. Except for one or two sketchy scenes, there are no actual in-depth scenes of the family bonding in Australia or Joshua finding water or him struggling to find the bodies, in the battlefield.

Narrated in a non-linear manner and interspersed with intense war scenes, the unfolding is fudged by a lazily drafted script. Due to this, the performance of the cast lacks intensity. Russell Crowe an exceedingly superb actor does his bit to perfection. So does rest of the cast that includes, Yilmaz Erdogan as Major Hasan, Bond girl Olga Kurylenko as Ayshe and Jai Courtney as Lt. Col Hughes. But it is Dylan Georgiades as Orhan, Ayshe’s charming young son who begs Joshua to stay at his hotel and forcibly takes him there, who steals the show.

Ultimately, “The Water Diviner” is a masterpiece minus the ‘X’ factor.

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