‘The Water Diviner’ is the fictional story of a man’s search for the physical remains of his three sons reported killed in August 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign of WW1. Rather than a celebration of martial valour, it is a study in personal grief.
In Part Three of this 6 part series, I set the historical context of the film. In this part, I will explore Connor’s (Russell Crowe) psychological journey.
The film follows the psychological journey of Josh Connor (played by Russell Crowe), the fictional story of a grieving father’s search for his missing sons at the end of WW1. The story begins with Connor trying to continue his life on the family farm four years after his sons are reported killed in August 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign. While Connor maintains an outwards semblance of a man coping with life, his wife retreats into a fictional world in which she believes that their sons are still children living in the family home. However, the strain of living with the death of their sons eventually becomes too much for Mrs Connor.
For anyone who has experienced tremendous grief in their life, there is much in ‘The Water Diviner’ that resonates. Grief often comes in waves. One moment you feel fine. The next moment, you become a crying mess. Or a screaming maniac. And then there are the subsequent events which serve to compound the pain – whether it is the simple drudgery of normal life or the long drawn out efforts to support another in their pain. Or the hammer blows of subsequent traumatic experiences.
Obsession is a largely unacknowledged element in human coping strategies. Obsessive activities can begin in unconscious ways. Indeed, the people around the grieving person might become aware of the obsessive behaviour long before the grieving person themselves becomes aware of it. Sometimes the behaviour will appear harmless, or at least will seem so to the grieving person. In other cases, the obsessive behaviour can become increasingly self-destructive. As a subconscious defensive mechanism, the obsessive behaviour might simply permit the grieving person time to adjust and resume normal life. For others, sadly, the struggle to return to the normal world becomes too much to bear.
Josh Connor’s journey to find his sons in the face of apparently insurmountable odds is the obvious central obsession of the story. And when confronted with the enormity of his grief, and the insensitivity of the people around him, Connor chooses to make an equally great gesture to counteract that grief – to journey to Gallipoli and commence his quest to find his missing sons.
Yet, if we see the film as only about one’s man quest and one man’s grief, then we miss a central truth for people struggling with grief. The proverb ‘No man is an island’ is very true when it comes to coping with grief. Connor is at first lost in his own grief and oblivious to the needs of the people around him. Yet it is significant that Connor’s real-world journey across Turkey mirrors the separate inner journeys experienced by many of the film’s characters. Each character separately comes to realise that they must be willing to connect with another’s grief as part of their own journey to self-healing. Alone we cannot help ourselves. Yet, by helping each other, grieving people can collectively re-establish themselves in the real world.
In Part Five of this 6 part series, I will reflect on some more of the psychological journeys within the film.
Photo Copyright Details:
|Title: The_Water_Diviner_poster Description: Poster for the film The Water Diviner Date: 1 October 2014 Source: Wikipedia Commons, which derived the image from commingsoon.net. This image is of a poster, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher or the creator of the work depicted. However, this low resolution image is reproduced with the intention of providing a commentary on the film.|