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  • Jared Huizenga

‘Aquarela’ is a White Noise Machine on Steroids

As we all know, movie trailers are meant to build momentum, pique interest, and, most importantly, sell tickets. Sometimes those trailers provide an accurate depiction of the film, while others sell the sizzle to what turns out to be a non-existent steak.

Victor Kossakovsky’s water-centric documentary, “Aquarela,” fits squarely into the latter category.


Greenland. (Photo by Victor Kossakovsky and Ben Bernhard. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)


Shooting in a rare 96 frames-per-second, Kossakovsky and cinematographer Ben Bernhard take you around the world (from Russia to Miami to Venezuela and places in between) to experience water in all its powerful glory. What else? All those Titanic-sinking icebergs, gigantic rolling waves, and Gulf Coast-battering hurricanes are to be set to the soothing cello metal sounds of Eicca Toppinen and Apocalyptica.

And early on, that’s exactly what “Aquarela” delivers exactly that.

After a cello-metal intro (not joking, look it up), you open on a group of men working to rescue vehicles and drives that have plunged through an ice road that has starting to thaw earlier than normal. It’s tense, and gut-wrenching, and serves as a reminder why I don’t drive on ice like a good Minnesota boy should.


Baikal. (Photo by Victor Kossakovsky and Ben Bernhard. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)


But then the music goes away, and the tension follows shortly thereafter. It’s then that you realize there is zero narration, and Apocalyptica tunes aren’t as prevalent as you’d been led to believe … and you’re left with 90 minutes of what amounts to white noise with some Nat Geo-esque action taking place.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is some mighty fine cinematography at work here – some killer shots of glaciers breaking apart, a handful of overheads of giant waves, and fantastic underwater/ice shots that give the 96-fpm center stage.

But most of the film is boring shots that linger far too long, with no spoken info to put it in context, or music to push it over the edge.

In its pinnacle moments, “Aquarela” is great, but in its worst it’s live action Melatonin.


Atlantic Ocean. (Photo by Charlotte Hailstone. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)


If you still intend to watch “Aquarela,” here are my suggestions:

  • Watch it in a theater. Unless you’re a hydrosexual (it’s a thing, according to Urban Dictionary), your attention may wander if you wait to watch this at home.

  • If watching it in a theater, go to the one with the largest screen and most robust sound system you can find.

  • Caffeine, caffeine, caffeine. You’re about to watch a 90-minute water documentary sans narration and minimal music.

  • Void your bladder beforehand. (Just trust me.)

★★1/2 of ★★★★★

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