It’s the story of a bereaved father who travels to Turkey to find the remains of his three sons killed in the conflict and return them to Australia.
Crowe plays the father, Joshua Conner, an Australian farmer with a talent for water divining, a skill useful on his drought ridden farm. He’s confident that his skill can also locate his dead sons.
Through his quest Connor learns about the campaign that robbed him of his sons and its cost to fighters on both sides of the conflict. Despite an official end to hostilities, peace has not been obtained and he finds himself caught up in some of the continuing violence.
This film was another part in my attempt to find out more about the approaching Anzac Day centenary. While portrayal of the actual Gallipoli conflict plays a relatively small part of the film, it is at the heart of everything; its effects linger in the lives of all of the characters four years after that particular series of battles ended.
There are a few scenes depicting Connor’s sons in battle that show the brutality of a conflict fought with weapons ranging from machine guns to rifles, bayonets and any blunt instrument that comes to hand. Death came on open ground where there was little cover to stop a soldier being cut to shreds by machine gun fire, as well as in claustrophobic trenches where it was barely possible to recognise enemy from friend. Those battle scenes aren’t pretty, but it’s the human suffering afterwards that is harder to watch (and hear). This isn’t an action movie where death comes cheaply and frequently, usually with a wise-crack from the hero. Death lingers and delays its coming leaving victims wailing with the pain suffered in their torn bodies.
One of the things that makes this story different to others about Gallipoli, is its view of the Turkish side of things: that the Turks were being invaded and were protecting their homeland, and that they suffered greater losses than all other participants combined: over 86,000 dead and 164,000 wounded compared to 44,150 dead and 97,000 wounded from the British led allies. (http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/2visiting/tgallipoli.html and http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/interactive/gallipoli-casualties-country)
The film doesn’t glorify war and doesn’t set out to lay blame; it brings recognition of the dehumanising effects of war that can make anyone capable of regrettable acts and gives hope of the possibility of reconciliation and forgiveness afterwards.