Leningrad-born director Leningrad-born director Viktor Kossakovsky’s globe-trotting, climate change documentary is uniquely challenging in that it shows the raw power of water – from destructive hurricanes to dissolving glaciers – yet offers little relatable context since there’s no voice-over, on-screen description or captions.’s globe-trotting, climate change documentary is uniquely challenging in that it shows the raw power of water – from destructive hurricanes to dissolving glaciers – yet offers little relatable context since there’s no voice-over, on-screen description or captions.
It begins on southern Siberia’s Lake Baikai, the world’s deepest freshwater lake. From January through May, when it’s frozen over, residents drive across the pristine ice but, when there’s a treacherous early thaw, intrepid crews are often summoned to rescue sunken vehicles and stranded motorists.
In Greenland, monumental glaciers are cracking, turning upside down and sinking into the ocean. Aboard the chartered, two-masted 100-ft. schooner, the Polski Hak, Kossakovsky was able to chronicle the glacier’s magnificent, yet unpredictable calving.
There’s a harrowing trans-Atlantic crossing, as a small schooner battles massive 30-foot waves and howling 40-knot winds.
In California, there’s the Oroville Dam crisis and, in Miami’s South Beach, there are terrifying glimpses of the chaos caused by 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Concluding at Angel Falls in Venezuela, Kossakovsky pays tribute to another Russian director, Andre Tarkovsky, when he photographs a rainbow which – at first – seems to be in the sky but, in reality, is at the foot of the foaming falls, an uninterrupted 2,368-foot plunge.
Using Arri digital cameras to so that he and cinematographer Ben Bernhard could film at 96 frames per second to create incredible visual clarity without resorting to CGI, Kossakovsky amplifies the natural drama with an often-intrusive score by violinist/composer Eicca Toppinen of the Finnish “cello-metal” band Apocalyptica.
The (unstated) environmental message is that – with global warming – we’re all living on thin ice.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Aquarela” is an immersive, cinematically overpowering 6 – available on Apple TV and Fandango NOW.