Aquarela sounded deeply intriguing, described as a cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water.I loved the idea of a film demonstrating the impact of water, perhaps providing a wake-up call to humans of the power of earth’s most precious resource. I expected a film that focused on water, with minimal dialogue but I did wonder what would keep viewers engaged. What I viewed was a work of art, utilizing light, sound and expert camera work to immerse viewers in the cycle of water, an homage on the impact of water on life on earth.


Directed by Viktor Kossakovsky, filmed in Greenland, New York, Miami and South America, the movie follows the cycles of water, beginning in the frozen waters of Russia’s Lake Baikal as humans struggle to survive on the ice, learning when it is safe to travel and when those same icy paths are no longer safe. The film follows the melting ice to the ocean as one small sailboat struggles to survive the depths of the ocean. We witness the fury of storm, wind, and rain against the backdrop of the city and end in mists and rainbows in the jungle.


Two of the most expressive elements are the lighting and camera work. Throughout the movie, even in the wildest of storms, the film work never wavers. It tracks shimmering ice, violent waves, blasts of wind and even the quiet beauty of the mists above a waterfall. When on the ice, there are moments when the camera follows the underside of the ice flows, demonstrating beautiful, shimmering points of light. Not only does it show the versatility of water but these scenes are among the most beautiful. The light during the storm and the moments when the film utilizes slow-motion heighten the tension of the scenes.

The other incredible aspect is the sound and music, how they are used in the film. Both are used to create an atmosphere and heighten the pacing. Without dialogue, the music fills in gaps, both through the volume of the music, louder and softer, or through the type of music, classical versus metal rock, every choice is used to keep the viewer immersed in the scenes, capturing the moment and the power of the water.

The ability to create all these effects with just the visual medium is what makes this movie a work of art. You find yourself lost in the water, especially in the ocean scenes as the crew of the boat struggle to sail through the seas. I was entranced by the storm and the waves. The director’s choices allow the viewer to see the beauty and raw force of water, how much it impacts life all across the earth.

The biggest problem was the lack of a point of reference to guide the viewer. There was minimal dialogue, no narration, and the film relies almost solely on the visual aspects to help keep you clued in to the “story” of water. While the music and sound do help build tension, it doesn’t replace that point of reference and I was lost at times as to what was occurring on the screen and what I needed to focus on. I knew the water was important but occasionally there were other elements, such as the sailboat, that I was uncertain how they were important. I felt immersed in the film at points, lost at others.

This movie is definitely a work of art. If you enjoy impressive lighting work and expert camera angles and if you love visual stories and immersive nature scenes, you might like this. It is unique and different in the presentation, a documentary that is completely artistic. But, if like me, you need a more direct story, you might struggle with this one, especially with that lack of narration.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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