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Aquarela

A deeply cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water. Filmed at 96 frames-per-second, the film is a visceral wake-up call that humans are no match for the sheer force and capricious will of Earth’s most precious element. From the precarious frozen waters of Russia’s Lake Baikal to Miami in the throes of Hurricane Irma to Venezuela’s mighty Angel Falls, water is Aquarela’s main character, with director Victor Kossakovsky capturing her many personalities in startling visual detail.

"In titling “Aquarela,” his latest grandiose, sense-pummelling documentary ride, one has to wonder if iconoclastic Russian director Victor Kossakovsky was the tiniest bit annoyed that a certain awards juggernaut from last year’s Venice fest had already taken “The Shape of Water.” That would be the best way to describe what this globe-trotting, at-one-with-the-element enterprise is really about, as Kossakovsky offers a dazzling overview of simple H2O in its shifting array of forms, from the frozen-over Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia to the rains lashing Miami in the midst of Hurricane Irma to the intangible rainbow rising from the tumble of Venezuela’s Angel Falls. A feast of HD imagery so crisp as to be almost disorienting, this is immersive experiential cinema with no firm storytelling trajectory, though viewers can read what environmental warnings they may into its rushing spectacle.

Human presence is invisible-to-incidental in most of the sequences, save for the opening on the aforementioned Siberian lake, wherein Kossakovsky’s crew stumble upon a heart-in-mouth crisis. Cars frequently if ill-advisedly traverse the lake’s inconsistently frozen surface, occasionally cracking the ice and tipping suddenly into the waters below: The camera looks in on one arduous rescue mission before catching, minutes later and by stomach-churning chance, another motorist’s fatal plunge in the distance. It’s an opening so unexpectedly urgent as to set the film off balance, though that early, discomfiting note of tragedy lingers even through the film’s less compromised vistas of natural beauty, reminding viewers throughout of water’s capacity for destruction atop its properties as a life force.

The film thaws in more ways than one from that point, examining water in steadily more mobile, elusive forms. In Greenland, Kossakovsky serenely surveys icebergs and floes glinting in sunlight, slicing through the ocean like regal modern sculpture. The pace abruptly shifts for a tumultuous trans-Atlantic voyage aboard a buffeted yacht, perspective shifting between a sea-level view of furiously churning, spraying waves and aerial shots that make man’s attempts to navigate the big blue look all the more puny and vulnerable. The overegged intrusions of rock music from Finnish “cello-metal” band Apocalyptica in this sequence represents the film’s one clanging misstep — all the more glaring given the evocative precision of sound designer Aleksandr Dudarev’s contributions throughout.

From there, we switch to dry land in theory only, as Kossakovsky makes his way to America, first taking in the destruction wrought in California by last year’s Oroville Dam crisis, before sending an intrepid camera down the abandoned streets of Miami’s South Beach at Irma’s roaring, battering zenith. The extraordinary tracking shots that result prompt questions, not for the first time in “Aquarela,” of just what combination of technological ingenuity and crazy human bravado is at work here. By the time we rest on the more soothingly mighty vision of Angel Falls, with its nearly half-mile plunge of water shifting shape from translucent ripple to foaming white column to iridescent atmospheric apparition, “Aquarela” just about earns its lofty closing dedication to Sokurov — to say nothing of its thesis that water is tantamount to a human protagonist in its progression. That’s stated in the press materials, though wisely never on screen: Kossakovsky is quite happy to let his audience go with the flow." - Variety

Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Viktor Kossakovsky
Running Time: 
90m
Country(ies): 
UK | Germany | Denmark | USA
Year: 
2019
Language: 
Russian | English | Spanish

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