THE WATER DIVINER/ LA PROMESSE D’UNE VIE ***
In 1919, four years after the infamous battle of Gallipoli, an Australian father goes to Turkey to retrieve the bodies of his missing sons. Russell Crowe has taken up quite a task for his directorial debut – a story of contrasting cultures, family ties and love against a background of history. Despite some grumblings that it’s a sentimental melodrama – the press tends to resent Crowe’s quick temper (for the man doesn’t suffer fools lightly) – this is a powerful tale of war and fatherly love. Crowe plays the father with his usual intense presence, the barren wilds of his home country are a sharp contrast to the swarming bazaar scenes of Istanbul, and you know something’s-gotta-give from the moment he sets eyes on the lovely hotel keeper (Olga Kurylenko) in Turkey. C’est du cinema!
Based on the terrible battle of Gallipoli (Canakkale in Turkish), which took place in the Dardanelles during WWI, and then later the hatred between the Turks, the occupying British and the marauding Greeks, the tone is anti-war, depicting the senseless sacrifice of countless young lives (some 100,000 between the two sides) to the power-play of world leaders and inept military commanders. To counter the tragedy, Crowe accentuates the camaraderie between the father and the Turkish general (Yilmaz Erdogan), who ends up helping him in his quest. There are the few clichéd characters and situations, but this is old-fashion cinema, with heart, adventure and hope, despite the sombre theme. Could Crowe be an old softie under that tough veneer? And almost as fine a director as he is an Oscar-crowned actor?
(Photos – Universal)
TEHRAN TAXI **** (vo Farsi)
Multi-awarded Iranian director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold, Offside) has been under a sort of house and artistic arrest since 2010 because of his courageous films and demonstrations for more freedom for his Iranian compatriots. But he has not given up his artistic convictions, and in fact his first film after his house arrest was ironically entitled This is Not a Film. His latest oeuvre, Tehran Taxi, also smuggled out, picked up the top prize at this year’s Berlin film fest, where he has often won before.
In its utter simplicity – he plays himself, in a hired taxi, picking up and conversing with people from all walks of life – he has probably created his most light-hearted yet politically biting film to date. With his open, innocent face and radiant smile he welcomes a little fellow who reminds him that he used to deliver contraband films such as the latest Woody Allen release to his home. Another passenger gets into an argument with a woman who shares his ride – he says they should shoot burglars as an example for society, whereas she says that one should ask why the burglar needed to steal… Two women get in with a fish bowl, urging him frantically to take them to a certain cemetery… His cute little niece (who picked up the Berlin prize in his place) chides him about all sorts of things, while another fellow needs some papers to get him out of the country…
Here is a whole panorama of today’s Iranian society in one taxi – a complex situation made light – a small film with a huge heart and a myriad ideas. Panahi is a gentle evolutionary – a good man that you can’t keep down!
(Photos – Filmcoopi)
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Germany and Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers