A documentary by Viktor Kossakovsky. Rated PG
Water, water everywhere and now you need a drink!
That's one potential response to Aquarela, an ambitious and technically dazzling new documentary that ends up being too much of a good thing. Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky, a noted experimentalist, spent years traveling to remote places with advanced equipment-most of this was shot on a system that operates on 96 frames-per-second, instead of the usual 24-and pieced together this wholly impressionistic look at where this crazy blue planet is heading.
Whether cruising under icebergs in Greenland, following a tiny yacht through the stormy Southern Sea, or watching liquid vaporize down an endless descent from Olympian waterfalls in Venezuela, the viewer is nearly immersed in highly forbidding environments. Although there are no narrators or title cards to underline the effects of climate change, it's obvious from the thawing ice, flooded roads, and fast-calving glaciers on offer here that humans had better get ready for a wild ride.
People otherwise don't appear much on-screen. It's odd, then, that the film opens with its most atypical sequence, a long and somewhat repetitive visit with workers attempting to retrieve automobiles that have fallen through the formerly solid winter caps on Siberia's remote Lake Baikal. They lose more cars in the process, and that sense of impending, ghoulishly comical doom colours everything that follows, even as it points to Kossakovsky's somewhat random sense of form.
A number of reviewers have complained about his use of doom-metal music from the Finnish band Apocalyptica. (Where's Christopher Guest when you need him?) While there's certainly nothing wrong with applying that particular genre to the crashing of ginormous waves, there's virtually no difference between the scenes in which the instruments clang and those when they don't. Honestly, it's weird when a filmmaker does this kind of bombastic editorializing twice in a 90-minute movie and elsewhere sticks to the naturally spooky sounds of cracking bergs and screaming sea-birds.
Aquarela exerts a mesmerizing physical power, but it's of a sort that makes you want to find the right drugs, shuffle the scenes, and supply your own music. (I suggest Debussy's "La Mer".