A fundamentally silly film: another perspective on The Water Diviner

‘A fundamentally silly film: another perspective on The Water Diviner’, Honest History, 13 January 2015

Honest History President, Peter Stanley, reviews Russell Crowe’s film, The Water Diviner. Other material on the film, including links to other reviews. See also our review of another, rather better, Great War movie, Testament of Youth.

Spoiler alert! This review contains spoilers: if you don’t want to know, don’t read on.

‘Inspired by true events’? Well, yes; an unnamed Australian father is indeed supposed to have turned up on Gallipoli after the war in search of a dead son; there was a First World War; there were farmers and wells in north-western Victoria … But just about everything else in The Water Diviner is made up and not very convincingly either. As so often happens with historical films, the mistakes and the misrepresentations could so easily have been avoided. This is basically a silly film, full of impossibilities, and isn’t worth the attention it’s getting.

A05258Members of the Australian Historical Mission and Major Zeki Bey at lunch on Hill 60, February-March 1919. Left to right: Herbert Buchanan; Zeki Bey; Hubert Wilkins; CEW Bean; George Lambert (Australian War Memorial A05258)

My criticisms of The Water Diviner as a filmed story revolve around its fundamental lack of credibility. A bereaved father finds the remains of two of his sons on the site of the fight for Lone Pine – a place where, the film tells us, mistakenly, 7000 men were killed. (Actually, that was the figure for total casualties – wounded as well as deaths, both sides – but still it’s ludicrous to think that finding two bodies among that many was remotely possible.) Then he somehow finds himself somewhere in Anatolia and senses the presence of his surviving son, who has somehow made the transition from prisoner of war to icon painter and Dervish. (Don’t ask how he manages to both paint Christian icons, in a ruined Greek church, and participate in Islamic Sufi ritual. Why should you ask? The producers obviously didn’t.) Add the devices of corpse divining and coffee-ground readings (not to mention the father finding the surviving son by merely sensing his presence in a random bit of Anatolia) and you have a plot that substitutes coincidences and credulity for plausibility. Excuse the spoilers, but if they save you from going to see this load of tosh you’ll thank me when you see it for nothing on TV in a year or so’s time.

As a drama the execution is clunky and predictable. Of course, we can see the romance developing between the widower Joshua and the Turkish widow Ayshe from the moment they meet. Their candlelit supper the night before Joshua is to be seen off from Constantinople resembles nothing but a stylish coffee commercial and the cute kid with astonishingly good English is just ridiculous. The film also includes the philosophical exchanges between former enemies that we have come to expect in films of this kind. ‘Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes’, based on the real Australian war graves representative at Anzac, and ‘Major Hasan’, based on Zeki Bey, Charles Bean’s Turkish informant, duly share their reflections on the Tragedy of War. ‘How much blood do you need to make [a battlefield] holy?’; ‘I don’t know if I can forgive any of us’. This is predictable and mostly just irritating.

So much for the unconvincing plot. But The Water Diviner is an historical film and its historical gaffes begin in its opening moments. We are shown Ottoman troops attacking the Anzac line on 20 December 1915, the morning after the allied evacuation of Anzac and Suvla. It’s a bright sunny, seemingly warm morning – men are wearing just tunics and shirts – quite different to the freezing dawn of Gallipoli in December. Strike one. The Turks attack, though in reality they sent out patrols to investigate the unaccustomed silence. Strike two. They find the famous ‘drip guns’, still not firing ten or so hours after the Anzacs’ departure (but the Anzacs’ ships are still close enough to be seen through binoculars). Strike three, and the film isn’t five minutes old.

At times The Water Diviner is an evocative portrayal of aspects of Gallipoli: the claustrophobic hand-to-hand fighting in the covered trenches of Lone Pine is depicted convincingly, indeed terrifyingly. (That it culminates with an Australian shooting Turkish wounded is a point in its favour.) It hints at the horror that such fighting probably entailed. The agonised groans of the mortally wounded brother are convincingly wrenching: full marks for truth-telling there.

ART02868Major Zeki Bey, lent by the Ottoman General Staff to the Australian Historical Mission to Gallipoli in 1919 to provide information of the campaign from the Turkish side. He had been at Gallipoli for much of the Anzac occupation and was able to give first hand accounts (Australian War Memorial ART2868/George Lambert)

But generally the film’s writers, Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, simply haven’t thought about the historical reality they are trying to depict. Presumably they want us to find the story they tell convincing – they tell us that it’s ‘inspired by true events’, after all – but they couldn’t be arsed with the details. Of course, as an Australian film it has to have a go at the silly-ass Pommy officer, who is baited, given a horse named ‘Widowmaker’ when he asks for a mount. This is so much par for the course in Australian war films that it’s barely worth mentioning. There are lots of relatively minor historical errors, none especially important in themselves but collectively demonstrating that once again film-makers basically are happy to pillage history for ‘stories’ but can’t be bothered to pay their dues by getting it right.

For example, Joshua Connor’s three sons are supposedly killed at Lone Pine, on 7 August. They’re in the 7th Battalion, but the 7th Battalion didn’t join the fight until 8 August. Alright, it’s just a day different, but it points to sloppy research; getting the right date would have taken a minute to check.

Connor’s youngest son is aged 17 years and 7 months, according to the cross set up over his grave. This is well under-age: he shouldn’t have been allowed to go overseas until he turned 19 but he must have embarked when he’d just turned 17. Of course, it was possible for under-age youths to be accepted, with or without a parent’s written permission. (Would Joshua have given his permission? Perhaps – but what would his wife have felt? The writers just haven’t thought this through.) But why introduce this complication at all, since instances of soldiers that young were so rare? The film contributes needlessly to the misconception that Australia’s Gallipoli dead included under-age youths – one in three of the Connor sons.

Does Russell Crowe especially like beards, besides his own? A British soldier in Constantinople (a Scotsman in the Lancashire Fusiliers) has one, as does Sergeant Tucker of the 4th Light Horse, supposedly a member of the ‘Imperial War Graves Unit’ [sic] on Gallipoli in 1919. British Empire soldiers weren’t allowed to grow beards in the Great War. Actually, this is even more odd. No battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers was ever in the division that occupied Constantinople; a detail, but one easily checked. While there were Australian Light Horsemen on Gallipoli in 1919, they were members of the 7th Light Horse, not the 4th. Tucker describes being in the fight at Lone Pine but the Light Horse took no part in that attack. These are fiddly mistakes, of no relevance to the plot. But that’s the point: with a proper historical adviser they wouldn’t have been made.

The film’s only ‘research’ credit is to a Dr Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios, presumably related to one of the writers and hardly a source of independent advice, even if she possessed specialist expertise in Gallipoli or the Great War, not to mention the complex post-war situation of Turkey.

(Dr Wilson-Anastasios’s website describes her as

a lapsed archaeologist who worked in Greece and the Middle East, but now uses her PhD in art history and cultural economics to impart knowledge to impressionable postgraduate students at the University of Melbourne. It also comes in handy every now and then in her work as a researcher and script writer for film and TV, if only to convince producers that she might occasionally know what she’s talking about.

One is tempted to add: ‘enough said’.)

The Water Diviner, filmed partly in Turkey and produced with the co-operation of the Turkish government, paints the Greeks as barbaric invaders. That, of course, plays to Turkish nationalist mythology. But it is certainly true that the Greeks invaded Anatolia in the wake of the Great War and that atrocities were committed (on both sides, though the film portrays them as being one-sided). The Greek troops are dressed and act as murderous banditti, not as Evzones, who wore a khaki military uniform and who operated as formed military units. Some Greek troops did operate as banditti, as depicted in the film, but the film-makers have basically reflected a Turkish view of the Greek invasion.

1000px-Constantinople_Panoramic_NormalisedConstantinople: panoramic view of the city in the 1870s as seen from the Galata Tower (Wikimedia Commons)

Let me differ from some commentators in the Honest History community and say that some aspects of the film that have caused offence didn’t bother me. As several people have mentioned, there isn’t any reference to the massacres of Armenians that were such an important part of the last years of the Ottoman Empire. That’s true, but it seems to me that the Armenian agony simply has no relevance to the film’s plot, risible though the plot is. Ottoman and Turkish outrages against the Armenian community deserve attention but The Water Diviner is a work of fiction, not a history of post-war Turkey. Let’s cut Russell Crowe and his writers some slack.

But not too much slack because The Water Diviner has a ridiculously implausible plot that along the way portrays several aspects of the Great War and its aftermath in highly-coloured or misleading ways. We ought to criticise both the writers and the director for failing in their duty to do their jobs.

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29 comments on “A fundamentally silly film: another perspective on The Water Diviner
  1. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Lola Moore
    Sorry: I wrote ‘your’, not ‘you’re’. But in checking I realised also that you hadn’t even bothered to use capital letters: you do see how ludicrous this looks, don’t you?
    Anyway, please elaborate.

  2. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Hello Lola Moore
    As a professional writer I’d be very interested to learn what grammatical errors I’ve committed: do tell. But I don’t think I’ll take very seriously criticism from someone who renders ‘your’ as ‘ur’. You’re right, I plainly don’t think much of The Water Diviner – but as my review, I think, demonstrates, my criticism is based on knowledge rather than on mere preference or prejudice.

  3. lola moore says:

    it seems to me like ur just picking at anything and everything u can find, some not even existent because you dont like the film. the amount of grammatical errors in this is also laughable

  4. admin says:

    You are very welcome sir. Keep in touch. David Stephens Sec and Editor HH

  5. Robert says:

    Anzac Day 2015 has passed into history and along with the dollar diviners, facsimiles in many instances I believe of christmas eve christians, the sublime subject of Australias military and colonial inspired involvement has again been laid to rest.

    At this stage of seemingly dormant dollar driven developement, I would like to thank the administrators of Honest History for creating a forum that enabled discussion, provoked thought, and inspired my research.

    I am grateful for the opportunities to read and enhance my limited knowledge, but I must say I am more than grateful to those members of the executive I have been able to communicate with, both prior to, and during the centenary year, who have continuously offered help as my journey in understanding evolves. Lest we Respect. Robert.

  6. serhat cagdas says:

    I am a Turkish citizen and I appreciate that you really mentioned important mistakes. Especially to paint Greeks as Barbaric was the thing that I didn’t like most. But I wan’t to correct or share my thoughts about some little details about your review.
    For example you wrote that the farmers son which is alive participated in Islamic Sufi Ritual. Actually it is not exactly an Islamic Ritual. This group is called Mevlevi and anybody can parcticipate this group. You don’t have to be Muslim and there is a quate from Mevlana who is followed by this groups member : “Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”
    The second thing is the boy speking English. You are right at this time in Ottoman Empire French was more popular as foreign language. But if you think that you are about ten years old, your city have been invaded about three years by the English and you have a hotel this can be possible. By the way the family in the movie was a modern family at this time.
    The last thing which I think I have to share my thoughts about is the romantic sentences you found irritating. Of course I’m just a simple audience not a professional. But you should visit Gallipoli. This place is really holy for Turks and Turks says that Australian soldiers who died there are our sons anymore.
    At last I don’t want to talk about the Armenian massacres that you wrote. Because it’s not related to movie. But to genocide a nation is a big crime we know. And you should know that to blame a nation easily is a big crime.
    Thank you.

  7. Buttns81 says:

    I actually thought there was nothing wrong with the film. Considering that none of us could even imagine what it would have been like back then in the war. An answer to your complaint about the age of 17 years and 7 months, yes it is quite possible he lied about his age and enlisted. My great great uncle did he was 16 when he enlisted for world war 1 in 1914. He died at 18. So yes ALOT of those soldiers WERE underage.

  8. admin says:

    Thanks Pam. You might want to look also at http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/why-does-honest-history-review-movies-and-tv-shows/ . We thought it was important to explore for ourselves why we are doing reviews and we came up with some interesting answers. David Stephens Sec HH

  9. Pam Cupper says:

    Having not seen The Water Diviner, I logged in to read Peter Stanley’s comments. In fact, I’ve printed it to take with me to Gallipoli next Monday, when I accompany 80 Victorian school students on their Dawn Service pilgrimage. Thanks, Peter, for thoughtful comments.
    I was therefore amazed to read some comments that dismissed Peter’s reflections, including events ‘that he has very little knowledge about.’ Wow! The author of – how many? – dozens of published works on the Gallipoli Campaign?
    In any case, I wanted to pick up on this idea that popular films can tell history however they like. Yes, that is true. But the great majority of young people gain their ‘history’ from the popular films and then believe it is the ‘true story.’ Already, I know some of the Victorian students travelling to Gallipoli next week have seen The Water Diviner and I expect they might be believing this really happened, or could have happened. As Peter Stanley so well points out, such a scenario could not have happened.

    Thanks. I’ll take a copy of ‘A fundamentally silly film’ in my back pack and bring it out at Lone Pine!

  10. Peter Prineas says:

    Fundamentally silly in parts might be a better summation of the ‘Water Diviner’. One silly moment occurs when a British officer declares: ‘The Greeks have taken Smyrna!’ a city that was mostly Greek and had so been throughout most of the 19th century. True, the Greek Army had recently landed at Smyrna, but that was an outcome of the Versailles Conference supported by Britain, France and the USA, not an act of war.

  11. Rainforest says:

    Mr. Stanley falls into a trap trying to assess the history of events he has extremely little knowledge about. Especially pathetic and with no relevance to the movie whatsoever, Mr, Stanley dares to mention well beaten cliches of so called “genocide” of Armenians. Well, it is well know to any serious historian of the time period covered in this movie, that there is any documents or proofs of any wrongdoings of Ottoman authorities to Armenians. On the other hand, IT IS well known that Armenian gangs participated in brutal atrocities towards Turks, and cannot be presented as sole victims of those World War I events. Armenians, as Greek, who were correctly presented in this movies as invaders, have suffered no more than local Turkish population, subjected to betrayal and crime from Armenians and their Russian patrons at the Eastern borders of the Ottoman Empire. I would advise to Mr Stanley to try not making silly mistakes in painting that movie in wrong colors.

  12. Matt Davies says:

    At one point Peter Stanley’s review appears to get pre-occupied with facial hair, but its purported historian’s rigor may be premature on that matter too (PS: “British Empire soldiers weren’t allowed to grow beards in the Great War”).

    If I’m not mistaken, BE pioneer NCOs post-Crimea could grow beards, and at least one British Army colonel sports a full beard in a full-dress uniform photo as early as 1914. [more] Besides, who knows when a remote Australian corpse-hunting mission in 1919 allowed discretion for a soldier to grow a beard, away from the official prying of sticklers? Such has happened in the field whenever armies have bridled at their own martinet dress regulations, as they all do eventually. And the Australians were notorious for their leniency with AWOL and other disciplinary offences in WW1 – whereas British counterparts could be, and sometimes were, “crucified” (shackled in place) for petty offences, and even shot dead after court martial.

    Or is Peter Stanley’s view of “authority” in a military context so rigid as his regard for his own assumptions of authority within his own bureaucracy? Dare we perceive English-born Stanley’s as a British view of authority, military discipline or even “authority” in the realm of film-making?

    Anyway, it seems the Crowe-Anastasios-Knight crew may have ‘trolled’ the likes of Stanley on this war-factoid front. In this regard, the mis-dated 7th Battalion appearance (by one day!) seems a classic piece of anti-pedant mine-laying, as if supervised by a veteran ANZAC pioneer sergeant with full facial hair.

    Besides, the film’s bright daylight withdrawal from the peninsula is excellent for dramatic impact, or even as high subversive ploy. As Alison Broinowski writes on this site (http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/back-to-gelibolu-the-water-diviner-reviewed/): “[Viewers] may find themselves sharing, as I did, the Turkish defenders’ delight when, after eight months, the Allies withdraw”. The Dardanelles Campaign was entirely mis-conceived; a stupid waste devised largely by a nasty imperialist idiot whose crimes against India, most conspicuously, still escape official scrutiny. It’s way past time to grow up from all the mystical Gallipolism inflicted on Australasian youth, see it for the failure it was, and withdraw from the increasingly vague and macabre official celebrations of disaster: this film does just that, very subtly and cleverly.

    Stanley’s dismissal of the film’s deliberate and calculated “inspired by true events” caveat, and his ensared position among war trivia – like so many piles of dead AWM artefacts – suggest that Stanley would much prefer ponderous re-enactment to life-affirming drama. In the greater scheme of things, Crowe’s ambition trumps Stanley’s any day.

    “Inspired by true events”, Crowe’s is a magnificant achievement with ‘The Water Diviner’, so fittingly from a Kiwi-born Aussie. Such a brilliant, ambitious movie is not before time, and the Australasian box offices proved that fact emphatically.

  13. Sailor says:

    I won’t discuss the general historical accuracy of the movie, but the reviewer does make one mistake that I can see: Joshua doesn’t magically sense that his surviving son is in the village where he eventually finds him. If you look at the the first shot you see of the village you will clearly see a windmill, identical to the one that he and his son were seen building earlier in the movie. That is what he recognizes, it is why he heads into the village and climbs up on it and why they ask where the man who built it is.

  14. drewd says:

    Thanks Peter for an excellent review.
    I just finished watching the film myself and was left more than a little disappointed. I think it’s definitely an error on Crowe’s behalf to claim the story was inspired by true events just as it was a mistake to hire Dr Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios as the films research specialist (strikes one and two before the film is even released).
    The presentation of plumed slouch hats at the Battle of Lone Pine pretty much lost it for me and so I settled into a mood of comfortable escapism. Which I think is what Crowe fumblingly alludes to.
    Perhaps if he explained that the film might help Australians (and Turks) to reconcile to the past and perhaps identify with shared experiences from both sides of the fence then perhaps criticism wouldn’t be so scathing or perhaps history nerds can overlook the glaring obvious long list of faults.
    As a side note I’m sorry you had to contend with grammatically challenged individuals with a chip on their shoulder (well, one in particular). I for one and I’m sure many others enjoyed your review.

  15. wordsmith says:

    Bad film good review thanks Pete

  16. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Hello Senior Freebie
    I’m sorry to tell you that you are totally mistaken if you think I have made ‘edits’ to the Wikipedia page of The Water Diviner. I don’t believe that I’ve ever even read it, let alone edited it. You are also mistaken in thing that I teach cadets at ADFA – I don’t – or that I have tenure – ditto. I look forward to your retraction and apology.

  17. Senor Freebie says:

    Honestly Prof Stanley, how the hell does someone like you have a job in academia? Your edits to the Water Diviner wikipedia page were so poorly written, outside the scope of the wikipedia project and so devoid of relevance to the categories you put them in that I would be surprised if you’re capable of adding references to an essay, let alone acquiring a tenure.

    Is this really the kind of person that our Defence Force hires to teach history to Officers? I mean, this makes me wonder. If we’re still spoonfeeding them propaganda about an opponent from OVER A CENTURY ago, we must be telling them some pretty big porkies about more recent conflicts, like, I don’t know, Korea, or Indonesia.

  18. Neco says:

    Genius comments from Ellinas,

    So according to you, Nothern China belong to Mongolians, central Asia to Turks, USA belongs to the Native Americans, Peru belongs to Mayans, Australia belongs to the Aboriginals.

    So you give all the ownership rights to the “indigenous populations of the land”, the reality is Anatolia was under greek control for only a SHORT period of time in the History, along with greeks many other HUMAN BEINGS and HUMAN TRIBES also lived there. And the political authority changed many times. Even Armenians -they claim- had some small feudal authorities in some towns for a short period of time. But for the last 1000 years (this is almost 5 times more than it was controlled by a Greek ruler) its under Turkish control, it is TURKISH TERRITORY. And its time you guys should accept and DIGEST this fact. (water helps)

    If your reasoning was correct Greece and UK should be belong to the Romans. But why do we stop there? I think we should go even further, Europe belongs to the Neanderthals and humans should all go back to shores of Africa where they evolved, and ALL of the -then barbarian- European nations should pay compensation for the genocide their ancestors carried out against the Neanderthals.


  19. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see the point you’re trying to make. Are you somehow denying that Greeks and Turks fought for control of western Anatolia following the Greek invasion? The proclamation of the Turkish republic was an end-point of the strife that traumatised the region (‘ise’, not ‘ize’ spelling), but there was a Greek invasion of what became Turkey and all involved – Turks, Greeks, Armenians and others suffered in the aftermath of the Great War and the dissolution of the Ottoman empire. This is, I think, incontestable. I still can’t see why my contributions are ‘problematic’, or indeed what point you’re making, besides the heavy-handed sarcasm of requesting ‘academic work’ as substantiation. Would you like to have another go and explain exactly what point you’re making?
    Peter Stanley

  20. Izzy says:

    Prof. Stanley’s reply is extremely problematic.

    The Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1918, followed by the occupation of Istanbul and its subsequent partitioning by the British, French, Italian etc. It was dissolved in 1923 when the new Turkish Republic was established by Mustafa Kemal and his nationalists. The movie starts from 1919 (the Greco Turkish War). Technically 1 year after the Ottoman’s rule came to an end.

    According to Prof. Stanley “The Greeks engaged in a war against the new Turkish republic between 1919 and 1922”, although the Turks did not declare independence “Republic of Turkey” until 1923! Therefore we can say that the Turks had no control over Istanbul between 1918-1923 (5 years).

    Would Prof. Stanley care to clear this confusion? Perhaps one of his research papers, or academic work that might point the reader in the right direction would be just fine.

  21. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Hello Izzy
    I’m sorry: I don’t understand the point you’re making. Please expand.
    Andas a matter of fact there is a choice over spelling. ‘British’ (ie Australian) spelling prefers ‘ise’ rather than ‘ize’. American spelling prefers ‘ize’ endings. I am Australian, so …
    Peter Stanley

  22. Izzy says:

    Prof. Stanley: “As several people have mentioned, there isn’t any reference to the massacres of Armenians that were such an important part of the last years of the Ottoman Empire.”

    Prof. Stanley again (in the comments section): “Does The Water Diviner unjustifiably neglect the Armenian experience? I can’t see why it needed to include that aspect of the history of Turkey and the war.”

    Prof. Stanley concludes: “I’m criticising its faults, not its omissions.”

    By the way “criticizing” is written with a “z” not “s”. Just saying.

  23. princess says:

    Holiday season is a time for escapism, and what could be more escapist than a good old fashioned romance? Even if the hero buries a wife and then falls in love again within months. No sense of decency,there. The script writers could at least have put a couple of years distance between death and making eyes! This film may be riddled with historical inaccuracies, but I liked it. As fantasy fiction. The filmic equivalent of the classic(disposable)beach read. Having said that, I appreciate Prof Stanley’s review because if something is in danger of being mistaken for truth, the faults need to be laid out, one by one. By one. (OK, in this case, by the bucketful.)

  24. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Peter Stanley here. fair go, Ellinas, in 1919 the Greeks were both invaders and inhabitants. Let’s not get caught up in a semantic tangle. As you say, the Ottoman empire included ethnic Greek subjects who had lived in those areas for centuries. But the Greek state (itself formerly part of the Ottoman empire) invaded Anatolia in 1919 and engaged in a bloody and ultimately unsuccessful war against the new Turkish republic. So ‘Greeks’ in Anatolia in 1919 could indeed be either inhabitants or invaders. (As I say, I think that the film depicts the Greeks in an arguably unbalanced way as brigands, but the Greek army did invade Anatolia, seeking to establish a ‘greater Greece’: I don’t think it’s unfair of it to use that as an element in the plot.)

    Does The Water Diviner unjustifiably neglect the Armenian experience? I can’t see why it needed to include that aspect of the history of Turkey and the war. It is, as commentators are saying, a fictional film after all – and I’m sure I could find many WWII films that don’t refer to the Holocaust at all. To me this film’s faults relate to what it does say. I’m criticising its faults, not its omissions.

  25. Ellinas says:

    ATAA never fails to make me laugh. always out loud. They reguarly play the man, rarely playing the ball.

    My main problem with Anastasios’ script is the erroneous depiction of Hellenes. Please explain how they can be simultaenously the indigenous people of Anatolia and also invaders?

    The official tourism website of Akroinos (Afyonkarahisar) – where the film’s climax is set – lists six Hellenic churches and monasteries in and around the city as tourist attractions. http://www.afyonkulturturizm.gov.tr/TR,63492/kiliseler.html The youngest one is two centuries older than the Turkish conquest of the city. How then can Hellenes be invaders?

    How can a film that purports to be inspired by history neglect to even mention the Armenian population of western Anatolia? Can someone name a feature film set in World War Two that does make mention the Jewish Holocaust in at least one line? Nor should it. The Shoah was one of the central events of the war. Just as the Genocides of Anatolia’s indigenous Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians was central to World War One in the Middle East.

    As Prof Stanley, Vicken and many others have identified, even as fantasy, The Water Diviner is a poor film with a list of faults far too long to mention properly in a webpost.

  26. ATAA says:

    Good old prof Stanley – never one to let an opportunity to have a kick at Turks or Turkey go by.

    The learned professor, who last year wrote a heartfelt piece with the title “Our misguided friendship with Turkey”, now loses the plot over a number of errors he says are in the Water Diviner.

    Grab a coke, some popcorn, relax and enjoy the movie, professor, it isn’t meant to be a documentary.

    As for his criticisms over the way the Greek invasion was treated, this is a bit more serious, and shows just how much this man hates Turkey, and the Turks.

    Not sure what the ‘Greek side’ of this brutal invasion might be, but anything that tends to show Turks in a remotely positive light obviously bothers this man. History is sometimes hard, and sometime painful, professor. We hope that in time, your professionalism will overcome your prejudice.

    Just a note : This movie, the Water Diviner, has got 4/4 Stars from some REAL movie critics like David from ABC’s At the Movies. Their review can be reached here – http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s4135736.htm )

    Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance

  27. Vicken says:

    Thank you Peter for the most detailed and honest review of the Water Deviner I’ve read. The movie certainly does a great job in presenting the horrors of war and should be commended for that. For the sake of discussion, I’d like to add some of my thoughts on the movie. My criticisms, many of which you’ve already covered, is based on the presentation of the film as being ‘inspired by true events’ as well as the additional statements made by the film’s scriptwriters and director. Apart from a record of an Australian father who travels to Gallipoli (then under British occupation), as far as I’m aware there’s no record of an Australian father who travels to Anatolia and is assisted by Turkish (Kemalist) nationalists to find his surviving son. Since the bulk of the film is centred on Joshua Connor’s time in post-war Anatolia, the ‘inspired by true events’ statement can be misleading. In its attempt to present the suffering of the ‘other side’, the film actually presents a narrowly Turkish nationalist view of the Gallipoli campaign as it compares the Anzac dead with those of ‘Turkish’ dead. The Anzacs were part of an Anglo-French invasion of the Ottoman Empire, therefore the comparisons should be made between the empires or sides and not Anzacs v ‘Turks’. There was no Turkish republic until 1923 and the 1915 Ottoman army reflected the multiethnic make-up of the empire which included Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, Greeks, Armenians etc. In fact, Arabs from the Ottoman provinces of Syria and Palestine made up two-thirds of the first Ottoman units which the Anzacs met at Gallipoli. While the film did not make any references to the Armenian massacres and deportations, I find it odd that it completely omits reference to the Armenians. The town of Afion (where Joshua Connor finds his surviving son) had been the main internment camp for allied and Anzac prisoners during the war. The homes and churches which the Armenians had been forced to abandon were used to house these prisoners. This is well documented in the repatriation reports and memoirs of Anzac prisoners who spent time at Afion. Not to mention their iltreatment at the camp. It’s difficult to understand how the researchers of the film did not know this. The list of historical misrepresentations is long.

  28. Leighton View says:

    Make that “Peter’s criticisms”

  29. Leighton View says:

    Despite some beautiful photography and quite effective trench fighting sequences …. I would certainly agree with Peter’s on Russell’s first foray as a director. Shame ….

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