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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Awash in Excitement
by James Colt Harrison

Exquisitely beautiful, exciting, dangerous and terrifying are inadequate words to describe Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky’s stunning documentary feature Aquarela. Almost a travelogue in structure, the director trains his camera on various natural phenomenon around the world.

Focusing on water and its important part in our lives, Kossakovsky’s cameras show us the beauty, the power, and the destruction that water can cause. While being a necessary part of every human’s existence, water can also destroy forests, shorelines, and habitats as well as bring life, nourish crops to feed us, and provide us recreational possibilities. Is water a friend or a foe? It’s both.

Kossakovsky and his fellow cameraman, German Ben Bernhard, took many chances and put themselves in danger to capture the exciting shots of a raging ocean with seemingly 100 foot waves about to capsize them and their tiny boat. The boat is captained by two experienced sailors. One is a diminutive woman named Hayat Mokhenache, and the other is Peter Madej, both veterans of many ocean crossings during wicked storms.

The film has no narrative and very little dialogue. The early scenes at Lake Baikal have some Russian dialogue when residents crazily drive their cars across the frozen lake and capsize through the ice. Madness, you say! It’s a sport there and they are warned that the ice is melting earlier than usual. A portent of things to come during climate change?

To those of us who have never been to Greenland, some of the most fascinating scenes were filmed there to show us the life of icebergs. When an iceberg cracks and begins to fall apart, it is called “calving.” The groans and whiplash cracking can split an eardrum. To see giant chunks of ice split away from the “mother” berg is awesome, to quote our youngsters today. These are not simply small pieces of ice. They can be hundreds of feet high, like giant skyscrapers in the snow or complete islands breaking away and plunging into the water. The splashing into the ocean can create huge waves like a tsunami and engulf any boat floating nearby.

The cameras capture the rage of the wind during a hurricane in Florida and the destructive waters that swamp whole towns during a flood in South America. A flying trip to the magnificent 2,368 foot-high Angel Falls in Venezuela captures its majesty and muscle. Water is, indeed, a necessity for life on earth. But we must respect it and treat it carefully.

The visuals on this film are one of the most beautiful ever seen on screen. It’s Oscar® -worthy cinematography for sure. The colors are like a rainbow, the clarity of the shots over the shimmering icebergs shakes us to our core. The black of the ocean during a storm scares the daylights out of us. Everyone concerned about the health of our planet and the purity of our water should see this film. It reminds us to take care of our planet before it’s too late to inhabit.

(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated “PG” for some thematic elements.)

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