Review: Dazzling documentary 'Aquarela' lauds the awesome force of water

It's a rush watching the splendidly filmed doc that uses water as its main character

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Nature's beauty, its power and its continuous symphony are laid out in "Aquarela," a gorgeous documentary that lets its impressive imagery speak on its own behalf. 

There is no narration in director Viktor Kossakovsky's ode to water in all its forms, from glaciers to waterfalls to whipping hurricane rains. Instead, he and his cameras present the footage and let it create a hypnotic spell that slowly washes — please forgive the pun — over the viewer.   

A still from "Aquarela."

The footage is sometimes soundtracked by a raucous heavy metal score, courtesy of Finnish symphonic rock outfit Apocalyptica, which ramps up the already unnerving drama of nature's spectacle. 

Kossakovsky traversed the globe, shooting in Germany, Denmark, Greenland, Venezuela, Portugal, Russia, Mexico and the United States. He used cameras that rolled at 96 frames-per-second, quadruple the standard 24 fps rate, giving more resolution to his images. (Theaters will show the film in half that rate, at 48 fps.)

Avalanches and collapsing glaciers speak to the vulnerability of our great planet at this particular moment in time. Similarly, cars are shown speeding across frozen lakes and plunging into the icy waters below, and some of the only dialogue in the film is drivers explaining the ice usually holds them at that point in the year. 

What quietly emerges is a film of dual purpose: it celebrates the raw strength of water, and shows what we could lose globally if things continue at their current rates. "Aquarela" is an engrossing contemporary work; it would be a shame to see it become a time capsule piece of what once was.




Rated PG: for some thematic elements

Running time: 90 minutes