Review: AQUARELA Is One Of The Year’s Most Essential Films


The narrative threads fall off a bit towards the middle, but Aquarela is otherwise a brilliant and beautiful avant garde documentary that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

Aquarela, directed by Victor Kossakovsky, is a revolutionary new avant garde documentary about the role that water in its various forms has in our world. Although this is a challenging film, even for the most dedicated lover of experimental cinema, it is ultimately a rewarding and meaningful experience that is unlike any other you will see on the big screen in 2019.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this movie is that it was shot at 96 frames-per-second and will be projected in select theaters at 48 fps, double the normal rate of 24 fps. The result is a hyper-realistic image quality that tricks the eye into thinking that something is amiss. Though this may be little more than a distracting gimmick to the average viewer, it will effectively immerse cinephiles even further into the film, creating an even greater awe for the natural beauty of the world.

The thing that is likely to put off the average viewer of this movie is that the narrative is thin. Kossakovsky allows the water (and the people who interact with it) to tell their own story, not using narration or interviews to create a narrative. That said, a natural narrative thread forms, and even though it is strongest in the first act, it is enough that the film stays interesting and is able to deliver its message.

The cinematography in the movie is absolutely brilliant, some of the best of any nature documentary of not just this year, but also this decade. However, this film isn’t just pristine shots of flowing water and drifting glaciers. Over the course of the movie, it shifts more and more to focusing on the dangerous nature of water, particularly if humans continue on the same track of causing pollution and climate change.

aquarela glacier
Greenland. Photo by Victor Kossakovsky and Ben Bernhard. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Kossakovsky’s film is undeniably extremely political, telling a powerful environmentalist message with few words. One of the few spoken lines in the movie discusses how the ice is melting three weeks earlier than usual. This single line causes the whole film to snap into place, transforming the images from simply showing water to almost showing something that is alive.

Yet Kossakovsky doesn’t stop there — Aquarela also explores the consequences that environmentally destructive actions have on the fellow man. The most compelling portion of the movie features a rescue crew, pulling sunken cars (and occasionally the falling person) out from under the frozen water that has been cracking unexpectedly. The emotional weight that these moments have is unexpected, especially from a movie like this.

The use of sound is also highly impactful. Large sequences of the film feature only diegetic noises, of glacial ice cracking or waves crashing, which lets the audience appreciate both the majesty and power of what they are seeing. Other sequences effectively utilize a heavy metal soundtrack, which effectively heightens tension and lends the movie a sense of urgency.

Aquarela is truly magnificent, and quite likely one of this year’s most essential films. This is a viewing experience that demands to be seen on the biggest screen with the best sound possible (and in 48 fps if available). While this may not catch on in its initial theatrical run, it is sure to have a long life ahead of it as a mainstay in science museums and other educational environments.

Aquarela is now playing in theaters.


The Deuce: Inside The Episode (Season 3, Episode 1) | HBO

"It was worlds colliding in ways that no one had anticipated before." Creators David Simon, George Pelecanos, and others discuss how Episode 1 sets the tone for the final season. #HBO #TheDeuce New Episodes of The Deuce, Mondays at 9:00pm on HBO. Starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Subscribe to the HBO YouTube Channel:…

Curious George: Royal Monkey • Now Streaming on Hulu

No monkey business here. Curious George: Royal Monkey is now streaming. ABOUT CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY Join your favorite monkey as he takes on his most regal role yet, trading places with a royal monkey! SUBSCRIBE TO HULU’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL Click the link to subscribe to our channel for the latest shows & updates:…

TOP BOY | Final Trailer | From Executive Producer Drake | Netflix

To get to the top, you have to risk it all. 'TOP BOY' arrives 13th September. Only on Netflix. __________________________ About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading internet entertainment service with over 151 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages.…

Mayans M.C. | Season 2 Ep. 3: Camazotz Preview | FX

Mayans seek justice while Galindo's deal takes an unexpected turn south of the border. Subscribe now for more Mayans M.C. clips: Mayans M.C. is the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga. Set in a post-Jax Teller world, EZ Reyes is a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the Cali/Mexi border. Once…

Archie and Veronica’s Love Story | Riverdale | Netflix

You can’t help but feel the genuine connection and pure love that Archie and Veronica have for each other, and that’s what we’re all searching for...or at least sitting on our couches dreaming about. Watch Riverdale on Netflix: Watch more about Riverdale, here on YouTube: SUBSCRIBE: About Netflix: Netflix is the world's…

Next on the Series Premiere | Murder in the Bayou | SHOWTIME Documentary Series

Four young women are murdered in Jennings, Louisiana. Watch the premiere Friday, September 13 at 9/8c. #ShoDocs #MurderInTheBayou Subscribe to the SHOWTIME YouTube channel: Don’t have SHOWTIME? Order now: Get SHOWTIME merchandise now: Get more SHOWTIME: Follow: Like: Instagram: Website: Based on a best-selling book, this five-part true…
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here