For those approaching Aquarela expecting an educational account on the perils of global warming, prepare to leave bamboozled, fact-famished and with a well furrowed brow, for renowned documentarian Viktor Kossakovsky delivers a reflective, part salient and near silent look at water as both a transformative compound and destructive force of nature. Aquarela opens with a jarring guitar score, disfiguring the beauty of the frozen Lake Baikal. Scenes and sequences featuring the aforementioned rift lake in Southern Siberia, and later Venezuela’s Angel Falls, play like a frozen lava-lamp blobbing back to life after an age left thawing in front of a cigarette.
Orange jacket wearing rescuers trudge grumpily across the lake’s frozen surface to retrieve a car from the beneath it. Later there are steam warped images of chilling vistas, ice white massifs winking silver under the sun while white rock hunks sit lonely when seen surrounded by clouds. One scene features water pouring upwards into a rainbow while strings whinge, makes Aquarela seem more like a dream seen through a lens left to linger in the hope of something happening, to resound as both transient, elongated and often unedifying.
Kossakovsky is famous for melding documentary and art-house tropes but Aquarela mostly feels like a gallery installation, or being lost in the hiss between radio frequencies. After gazing through the shifting crags and crashing waves for so long, one starts seeing faces and shapes in the formations, like one would while watching clouds pass after inhaling an acre of purple sinsemilla. Shots of swishing waves at dusk resemble static through squinted eyes or oil and tar, while diegetic thunder claps and disintegrating glaciers mesh with music by Eicca Toppinen (of Finnish cello-metal band, Apocalyptica). It’s difficult to tell whether Toppinen’s tunes distort from heavy guitar rock solos into Mica Levi type whining, or if it’s nature readjusting/ rising water.
Aquarela makes for a pleasing ninety minutes, but not one you can learn much from. You won’t feel you’ve missed anything if you pop out for a wee at some point, which all the sploshing, splashing shots may trigger, for Kossakovsky’s flatly captured jiffies lack narration or explanation. The sight of storks pecking at drifting debris in a flooded cemetery will make some smile, even though this is in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Irma, while grunts from people getting thwacked in the face by angry waves may also distract. Others may be swept away by the often incredible images and massive splash montages while some will frown then drown in their own tears of boredom. Left undernourished by this fact-lite foray which makes spectacular screen décor, but could leave some sea sick, disorientated and even slightly mad.