Aquarela

First Hit: One of the most cinematographically influential films I’ve ever seen.

This exquisitely shot film is about water, water in various forms of power and beauty.

The beginning is both puzzling and amusing at times. We watch as men walk around on frozen water, stooping down, and pressing their head against the ice. They are looking for something.

What could they be looking for? Sealife? A human body? No, they are looking for cars or trucks. We watch as they painstakingly find one, create a big hole in the ice, and using the primitive, yet ever practical, pulley and lever system of moving heavy objects, bring the vehicle up from underneath the ice.

I never really figured out if this was a wide river, part of a bay in the ocean, or a lake, but in the end, it didn’t matter. These inhabitants of a far northern unnamed country drive across the ice for many months of the year, and now that there is global warming, the ice is giving way three weeks earlier than usual, and vehicles are breaking through the ice and sinking into the water. The camera shows this happening several times and it both astonishing and amusing to watch.

At one point we watch this happen, and the camera catches one of the bloodied escaping survivors climbing on to the ice surface and then panicked, we see him trying to find his passenger. Everyone is looking for him, and when they see his body through the ice and they start chipping away to save him.

The film transitions to seeing glaciers, then glaciers calving into the ocean. Later, calving underwater resulting in icebergs rising to the top of the water and spinning in the water as they find the balance point. The noise of the calving glaciers is eerily breaking the silence of the film and sets an ominous tone. The shots of these calving events are extraordinary. I felt right there.

Then we’re on a sailing craft heading through rough seas, and then really rough and vast seas. The two sailors are alone in the dark battling rolling waves that are easily 30 – 40 feet. The boat slamming into the crevasse and then the rise of each wave creates spray off the bow that covers the entire ship. I would not want to be on that boat.

Then ocean waves in a dark arctic storm rolling across the ocean. They are easily 50 – 60 feet. This sequence uses loud heavy metal as background music, and for me, just too much and too loud, and I understood why it was used. These scenes are some of the darkest most potent visions of water on this planet.

We then segue to hurricane shots in Florida, then water overrunning Oroville Dam in California, and end up at Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world.

In between all this, there are other shots of water that are equally powerful and at times elegant in their serene beauty.

I cannot imagine the patience and fortitude it took to capture all this water, in this way, on film. These were some of the most amazingly sublime shots I’ve ever seen – in any movie.

Viktor Kossakovsky wrote and directed this, and all I can say is, “wow, what vision.”

Overall: Outside of some of the music choices, this film stands heads above most documentary films about the nature of our planet.