Directed by Victor Kossakovsky
Rated: PG for coarse language and infrequent depictions of accidental death
Runtime: 90 minutes
Now playing at Metro Cinema through Sept. 19
Any documentary that purports to be about the power and beauty of water in all of its many forms yet starts off with 15 minutes of a team of people extracting a submerged car trapped under 20 feet of water and two feet of ice is a complete waste of my time. It’s not necessarily that I came here for the narrative – there were lots of opportunities to make this a Burtynsky-esque pictorial essay with very little commentary, really – but it basically ignores its own premise of being a water doc in doing so.
This team of Russians works Siberia's Lake Baikal where people traditionally drive across its frozen surface while they can, and even past when it’s safe. After they extract the first (using a wonderful manual method involving a wood pole, a rope, and a guy who runs circles around it) they then move on to the next while watching other vehicles driving past. This year, the ice has started to melt earlier, and it’s melting faster too. They yell at the driver to stop, which he doesn’t, yelling that they’ll sink, which they soon do, tragically. One person drowns while the two others remain on the surface as the rescuers come. None can walk away though as the ice is so thin that they repeatedly just fall through while standing there. They can chip away at it with the head of a fishnet. This leads me to think not, "What were they doing driving on the ice?" but rather, "What is the point of this movie?"
Indeed: what is the point of Aquarela? The promotion calls it ‘the most dangerous movie ever made’ but so was Jackass. That doesn’t make it worthwhile viewing. It does make it slightly more cinematic, as director Victor Kossakovsky captured all of the car-raising action at 96 frames per second even though the theatre at Metro Cinema probably only projects at a maximum 48. He also filmed without a script and without a plan.
Why? Ask him. I do recommend sitting close to the speakers to really get the effect of how ice and water talk when the ice shelves break into boulders. That might help your appreciation of this aimless, pointless, scenic film that is more like your uncle’s boring photo album from that time he visited some place you’ve never heard of and took 300 photos that he just had to show you.
Beyond that, just wait for winter in Alberta.