AQUARELA (Victor Kossakovsky). Opens Friday (August 23). 89 minutes. See listing. Rating: NNN
Aquarela opens with men in arctic conditions. They scour the ice. Start chipping away at it. You might assume they’re searching for a good fishing spot, like men in control of their environment. But then you see it. They’re fishing for a submerged car, which is floating just below the ice surface. It’s down there because a man thought he could race across a frozen lake and cheat nature, or perhaps cheat climate change.
The process to retrieve the car is risky, complicated and long. Director Victor Kossakovsky sticks with that process in his abstract and extra-sensory documentary, which humbles us before ice, water and mist.
We’ll see more cars racing and getting dunked in the unspecified icescape. More unidentified men end up in the frigid water. As the doc proceeds, the camera gets more distant from people until they are grain-sized against awesome sights.There’s no narration beyond editing, and few humans beyond the unlucky few testing the limits against H20 in frozen, tsunami or hurricane form.
The film is 89 minutes of undeniably beautiful iceberg, tidal waves and waterfalls. But that gets redundant. And the occasional heavy metal intrusion on the soundtrack: oof.
But Aquarela makes it all worthwhile for those choice sights (captured at 96fps) and sounds presented in Dolby Atmos. Nature doesn’t need to be at its most violent for these scenes to feel overwhelming. The moment that sticks with me most is a shot that gets up close to ice in sunlight, and the sounds of its molecules reacting envelope us as if we’re surrounded by a liquid orchestra.