The Water Diviner

Director Russell Crowe begins his film, The Water Diviner, after World War I, in 1919, with focus on the Battle of Gallipoli at the eclipse of the Ottoman Empire. Crowe plays the lead role, an Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who searches for his three sons who went missing in battle.

Under the surface of this narrative of postwar anguish, the film places viewers squarely in front of uneasy cultural instabilities through cinematic leaps across time and location. The complex plot emerges as more of a prism than a lens, bringing together many layers of narrative.

The film balances cultural uncertainty with rich with images of Persian, Byzantine Greek and Islamic cultures. These complexities appear in Connor’s Australian visuality, as he becomes father, outlaw, and peacemaker. All this is punctuated with the trope of Connor-as-diviner at important points of the film, and becomes a mystical guide.

The film is a reminder that WWI extended well beyond Western Europe, into cultural upheaval in the Near East and beyond. This film blends wartime heroism with political and cultural complexities, which will carry it to a wide audience without a preachy, sermonic tone. Indeed, The Water Diviner worth seeing twice.

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