The Water Diviner

As directed by Russell Crowe from the book of the same name by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios, The Water Diviner is part (anti-) war story, part romance, part history lesson, and part travelogue. Four years after the Battle of Gallipoli in which he lost his three sons, Joshua Connor (Crowe) is driven by the suicide of his wife to leave his Outback farm to go to the battlefield in search of their remains. On the way, waiting to get a permit from the occupying English forces, he stays in a hotel in Istanbul run by a beautiful war widow who, along with her young son, helps him to understand their country, culture, and customs, and he soon finds himself protectively drawn to them and to Turkey. With this simple story, Crowe creates a moving film with the atmosphere of loss over death, often allowing the Turks, who suffered deeply in defense of their homeland, to tell of the fighting from their perspective—a very different portrait than in Lawrence of Arabia.

Scenes set in post-war are gently and evenly lit and filled with pale browns and yellows of the Turks’ uniforms, earth, and church pews occasionally set off by their rich red flags and fezzes. Blacks, such as a priest’s cassock, are deep, the collar a bright white. Scenes of the battlefield are sharper, with greater contrast and detail, giving textures to the in-depth shots of trenches and making wood grain, weave in rough shirts, and lace curtains all tactile. Decorations and stained glass of the Blue Mosque, patterns in rugs, and the shadowy reflections of water in the underground Basilica Cistern are all well defined.

In deeply bossy Turkish-tinted orchestral music, instruments are well separated into individual channels. All is distinct even in battle scenes when shells boomingly explode and gunfire sharply snaps off all around. Atmospherics on the farm and in the Istanbul markets are immersive, as are a night of thunder and rain and a highly convincing (and frightening) dust storm that swallows you up as it rages around. Dialogue is clear and full, and effects, such as horses galloping by or trains rattling along, are accurately panned.

The only extras are two short, highly polished, and informative featurettes. One has Crowe narrating over interesting behind-the-scenes footage focusing on casting and location shooting. In the other, Crowe intelligently explains the history behind the bloody slaughter at Gallipoli.

Studio: Warner Bros., 2014
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: Linear PCM 5.1
Length: 111 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Russell Crowe
Starring: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan