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Everybody loses – The Water Diviner



It’s been a while since I’ve written about any film, mainly because I haven’t seen anything that really struck me as worthy of a blog entry.

I watched Furious Seven and all I can say… in a world where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the best actor and the only one who can pull off those ridiculously over the top lines, you cannot possibly care for the other seven furious dwarves. 

Then I saw Ex Machina and was strangely underwhelmed. Yes, it is well written, and yes I’m secretly in love with Domhnall Gleeson (and his Dad Brendan), but it just doesn’t linger. All you can do is shrug and move on. Sorry, Alex Garland, I really did love 28 Days Later, though.

Well and then finally I saw this Aussie flick and thought to myself, here’s another chance at putting my mind into words on a keyboard.

I have lived in the USA for nearly four years now, and if one thing has become most painfully apparent to me it’s that I am and will forever be a stereotypical European militant pacifist. Growing up in a country and continent that was one massive battlefield after ’45, bombed to shreds and mine-infested,  you just don’t get an option – there’s only one way to think about war: That it must never ever happen again, and that we have to do everything in our power to avoid military confrontation. 

There are no victors. Everybody loses.

The eagerness with which the USA ventures into war in the corners of the world has always irritated me. A clever man (forgive me for not remembering who it was) said the other day that the reason for the USA’s belligerence comes from the situational given that they were never a battlefield in the 20th century. The States were never bombed to shreds, nor do they ever have to call the bomb disposal service because somebody found a rusty grenade in their back yard. It’s a different kind of life when you grow up witnessing war merely on TV, bringing dusty images from some unpronounceable country thousands of miles away from your white picket fenced home.

“In order to shape a more perfect union”, the USA unite every jingoistic Veterans Day, thanking all the boys and girls who risk their lives overseas by flying the flag. War, like health care, is an industry in America, a mere business. I cannot understand this, because both have too precious an ante: human lives.

This is something that other colonies like Australia and New Zealand have come to understand, and this is what Russell Crowe’s Water Diviner is about. 

As an Austrian, World War I is ever so often overshadowed by World War II to the extent that we tend to forget there was even a war before Hitler made his toothbrush ‘stache the most iconic facial hairstyle a man can have.

So, yes, World War I actually happened and it was a very different war – a trench war between Empires who recruited their soldiers from all available colonies.

The history of the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) and their fateful campaign to take Constantinople (Istanbul) from the Ottomans during World War I is commemorated every year on April 25: the Anzac Day. Much like Veterans Day in the US, Aussies and Kiwis unite for one day to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Battle of Gallipoli/Çanakkale in 1915 (and all subsequent wars). Gallipoli was a disaster for the Allies; they evacuated from the peninsula with casualties in the forty thousands. During my studies, I read that every New Zealand family name appeared on the list of causalities. 

This is the event Russell Crowe chose for his directorial debut. He is the father, urging his three sons to fight for a king and country they have never seen before, in a place they have never heard of.

His sons do not return from Europe, and Russell Crowe sets out to find his boys’ bodies. It’s a hard task, without doubt, for a father to visit the battlefield and dig for his dead sons. He gets help from British/Anzac and Ottoman personnel who are determined to put a name to every skeleton they dig up on the peninsula. Once more it becomes ever so clear:

There are no victors. Everybody loses.

This all sounds very dreary, and indeed the flashbacks to the battle scenes are painful to watch, but the movie also has very sweet moments. Russell Crowe’s movie baby expresses well the European post-war trauma and felt like honey on my battered soul (after jingoistic Sniper bummer).

If you want to watch a film that shares non-heroic views on war and feels true in its sentiment, The Water Diviner is for you.  

Most reviews have not been kind to this film. The loudest bash comes from the wide Armenian population of Los Angeles, who are dissatisfied with the film’s omission of the Ottomans conducting Armenian genocide which happened in the same year. Unluckily, the commemorative day for the genocide falls on April 24. Unbeknownst to many Armenian-Americans, The Water Diviner was NOT released on this weekend to anger the Armenian Diaspora, but to commemorate Anzac Day.

Of course, I agree that the murdering of Armenians must not be lost in history, but from a story teller point of view, The Water Diviner isn’t about World War I. It’s about a father who wants to find his sons’ bodies on a battlefield after the war, and quite frankly, there is neither room nor time to depict all crimes committed during World War I.

It is ironic, however, that these loud counter-voices come out of the USA, a country that still hasn’t officially recognized that the Armenian genocide was in fact genocide (like Turkey). Why is that? If we can believe Wiki, here’s what happened:

The United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved HR 106, a bill that categorized and condemned the Ottoman Empire for the Genocide, on October 10, 2007, by a 27–21 vote. However, some of the support for the bill from both Democrats and Republicans eroded after the White House warned against the possibility of Turkey restricting airspace as well as ground-route access for U.S. military and humanitarian efforts in Iraq in response to the bill.”

Bush opposed Armenian genocide measure because the USA needed their Turkish friends because the USA were waging war in Iraq, which recently was a huge film hit in the USA with American Sniper, intentionally leaving out EVERYTHING about the war in Iraq.

Is it just me, or is everybody fucking nuts?

Did I mention that war’s a business? 

Did I mention that there are no victors?

Did I mention that everybody loses?

Watch The Water Diviner. It’s beautiful, a good use of your money, and the cinematographer died recently.

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