Aquarela - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer

Aquarela Movie Review.jpg

Director: Viktor Kossakovsky

It is creepily eerie that I’m submitting this review as a massive hurricane barrels down on the Florida panhandle. We talk on social media and in the news about the impacts of global warming, something that has been on my radar in my 43-short years on this planet. And yet, I still have the impression that we have only a small inkling of the power of water and its role in the delicate ecological balance that keeps our small blue ball in the solar system together.

The power behind Viktor Kossakovsky’s enveloping documentary, “Aquarela” is to remind us of water’s awesomeness, its destructiveness and its place in the aforementioned ecological balance.

Water isn’t simply something that covers 71 percent of our surface or 96.5 percent of all the earth’s water is held by oceans. It is in the air as water vapor, in rivers, lakes and as we see in the beginning of the documentary, it is in icecaps and ice floes.

Kossakovsky doesn’t offer a verbal narration of the images that unfold on the screen in front of us. Instead, he relies on the natural sounds, and the happenings on the screen to captivate us. It’s no wonder then that we see people driving across a glacier off in the distance when suddenly the ice gives way and the camera crew goes in to assist.

The purpose of showing this was twofold. First, it demonstrates the fragility of our world and the life on it; second, it begins the narrative flow, literally and figuratively as we move from the frozen world of Russia to a scientific expedition across the Atlantic on a sailboat where we are witness to the rough seas and the constant changing conditions. We see the wear and tear that life on the sea has on us. I noted that as the relentless waves crashed over the hull, the crew became more hardened against what Mother Nature wanted to throw their way.

Kossakovsky takes us from the Northern Hemisphere into the Southern Hemisphere. The shift from the open, rough seas to the wind-blown streets of an unfamiliar town really took me by surprise. The city, which it turns out was Miami during Hurricane Irma was familiar because of the landscape. The power of Irma’s destructive winds was not enough to level the culture and the art deco look of the city, but it reminded me of just how fragile our infrastructure is.

Finally, we float down to Angel Falls in Venezuela where we see the high and mighty water drop into a pool. There is calmness and serenity within the falls, but the images and the sounds that we experience before getting to this point are chaotic. We’ve created the chaos and we can weather it, but water will eventually consume us.

During my screening, and for whatever reason, I chose to sit towards the front of the theater, something I never do. And as the sound of the waves fall over us sonically, Kossakovsky successfully puts us right in the middle of the wave or driving through the hurricane in Florida. I thought to myself, without a voice over narration, this film would sound amazing in Dolby Atmos and to my surprise, they formatted the sound for it. The imagery was also stunning. None of the cameras wavered when you would think they should. It was as if the flow of water running through the Earth’s crust from north to south had a straight path from north to south.

“Aquarela” is the type of film where you have to let the visuals guide you through its story. It is an exceptionally rewarding experience and something that I hope people get to see on as big a screen as possible.

3.75 out of 4