Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Water Diviner - good try, but no cigar

I enjoyed this film, which I saw at Dendy Opera Quays at 9:30 Saturday morning. At that time there were very few people in the cinema, even though I'd had to queue for my ticket, so something was popular.

Yes, I enjoyed the film, even though it is not even bordering on a classic. I suspect that both "The Imitation Game", and "Mr Turner" well and truly have the edge on it. This, however, is a ripping good yarn. Just like McCullough's "Thorn Birds" is a ripping good yarn - just don't read it after "Anna Karenina", which I did once, eons ago.

There is mysticism in this film. Divining water with either a forked stick, or a pair of wire rods (Connors implement of choce) is pretty other worldly. When I lived on a farm as a wee slip of a thing, my father had a water diviner come in. Desperation will do that to one. His name was Charlie Asimus, and he stepped it out with his forked stick, much to our delighted sniggers. Dad had a machine did a hole, and found water. But it was brackish, and only of use to the veggie patch, not the house.

But, Connor's mysticism extended further than just finding water. He had flashes of life "appear" to him. This happened while he was on the Gallipoli cliffs. I thought this to be one of the better parts of the film. However, once he realises one of his boys did not perish, the story gets away from Crowe. Crowe doesn't have much range in his facial expressions.

There are many hints of Indiana Jones in this story, from the outfit that appears glued to Connor (sans whip), to the wild chase through the markets, to the scenes around Istanbul in general. The portrayal of another culture is fascinating, even though it is only the more wealthy parts of that culture that pervades the second half of the film. The scene in Istanbul's blue mosque, although gratuitous, is awesome, in the classical meanining of that word.

Check for me please, but I think, right at the beginning of the film, the Turkish Major comes out of a tent, ready for the final charge in December 1915, sipping coffee. I felt certain he was sipping it from one of those modern cardboard cups, instead of whatever the Turks drank out of at that time.

Joshua Connor (Crowe's character), had three boys who were at Gallipoli - Lone Pine actually, on 7th August, 1915. This, of course, is only early in the war, and the Army was still insisting that recruits be of full age. So, let's say Crowe's sons were 21, 23, and 25. This would make their father 50, give or take. Joshua is a water divineer, and well digger. He is a big bear of a man, but he is not battered enough. The part in his hair is bloody immaculate! Yes, yes. I know Crowe himself is 50. But the two lives could not be more different.

It is in the chasing down of his still-surviving, elder son, that Crowe becomes unstuck. The shooting up of the train, and the mad chase by the marauding Greeks, down to the bullying of the British attache. Then the chase up the mountain, and jumping into the well to escape down the rushing mountain stream. Give me a break. The jump down the well nicely links back to the well Connor dug in western Victoria, but this, for mine, served to emphasise how far-fetched the story was becoming.

Which leaves us with the boarding house in Istanbul. There didn't need to be a romantic interest. The little boy is important. The fact that many Turks did not like Australians is important. But introducing the woman detracts from the other meanings that Crowe might have been tying to tease out. And the final scene ... yetch! Crowe smiling his beautiful smile, with his gleaming pearly whites. He was a hard-scrabble farmer from the Wimmera area. Read some of the poems of John Shaw Neilsen for the complexity of this sort of life.

I have an issue with the thick, sludge coffe at the end, too. When the woman "read" his empty cup, earlier in the story, Connor had had to swirl the coffee and gulp it down before giving her the cup, which she promptly turned upsidedowm. No sludge there. Yet, the sludge appeared at the end, even though its meaning eluded me. A host of little issues where Crowe was fashioning scenes on the fly.

I would give this a 2.5 to 3. My next film will be "Still Alice". I have seen four films thus far this summer, so my next film at Dendy will be free.
Summer Cinema

My Old Lady (22 Nov ****)
Mr Turner (21 Dec ****)
The Imitation Game (3 Jan ***)
The Water Diviner (10 Jan **^)


diane b said...

Is that out of 5 or 10?
We have seen Mr Turner and Imitation Game this year which is a good start for us as we sometimes go ages without seeing a movie. Your posts motivate me to go even when you don't like them. We enjoyed both those movies. The cinema photography was fabulous in mr Turner but the story was a bit thin. I thought the story in Imitation Game was better.

Joan Elizabeth said...

We tried to go see this one today but the only seats left were the very front row so we gave it a miss ... will probably pick it up in Glenbrook in February so you will have wait until then for my verdict.

Julie said...

Had to laugh! Out of 5 or out of 10. I know I am a hard taskmaste, but my score is out of 5.

It pleases me that my reviews motivate you to go, Diane. Let me know if you see anything I have over-looked currently showing.

Joan, there is no way I could sit in the front row. Invariably I am back row, centre. With my balance, and my stick I need to get there a smidge early. February will roll round soon enough.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Picked this one up at the Edge Cinema in Katoomba which is now open under new ownership. With only 5 or 6 people in the cinema we didn't need to sit in the front row.

I pretty much agree with your comments on this one. I could not figure out the sludge either.

I agree he was not battered enough ... though it was more his chubby good health rather than a neat part in his hair which bothered me (after all parted hair does fall naturally into its part just about all the time regardless of how it is tossled).

To me this movie was a piece of light hearted cinematic fluff. Good at that.

Julie said...


oopos ... shouting ...

"The Theory of Everything" which is about Stephen Haeking.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Can't see me going to either of those two. Hubby can't stand musicals and has recently developed a distaste for Hawking.