The latest film Aquarela by the award-winning director Victor Kossakovsky is a masterful quintessential piece of cinema. It is a stirring, emotionally visceral film where our main protagonist, water, takes us on an uneasy journey of discovery. Traversing the globe in “seamless aesthetic transitions” we witness the power, beauty and necessity of water. The poignant sub-text as we are immersed in this visually arresting film; we are destroying our planet and jeopardising our own existence.
“Even if there is no global warming, we cannot continue in the way that we do.” Victor Kossakovsky explains in his distinctive Russian voice, “We need to stop the way we treat our planet. Everyone needs to wake up. The planet will eventually find a way to be rid of us as this type of virus to its own existence”.
Indeed, for all our bluster and proclamations of human mastery over nature, we are on a knife edge. Our existence ‘is’ because the planet allows us to continue to remain. It is this pretext that evidently forms part of the basis for Aquarela.
“it was an easy film to name” he asserts when we discuss the genesis of the film, “Actually, the film came because of the title. Aimara Riques my producer called me and asked if I wanted to make a film about water? I said No because there are many films about water and mostly, they are talking head movies. But then she said what about if the film is called Aquarela” he adds relieving the moment with an excited relish, “then I said yes, that is a film I would like to make”.
“Aquarela is a water colour” he continues, “In fact, the name Aquarela made the film on another level. With water colours there are no real borders between colours. I wanted to make my editing like that. Where there are no real borders to the next frame or moment. It is an aesthetical connection-a natural transition into one. It was this idea that allowed me to make a ninety-minute film without words. It allows the film to travel through countries like Venezuela [Angel Falls], Russia [Lake Baikal] and more without viewers being necessarily aware. The word made the form of the film which flows like water-effortlessly”.
It is the effortless editing that makes the film a joy to watch. Modern Western cinema dictates that editing is fast, high octane leaving you in a state of perpetual flux-never able to rest on a moment for too long. For Victor he has imbued Aquarela with tenets of “old cinema” which he personally formed in his formative years.
“When I was a kid, I was always surprised how people would look at things but not really what was there. I remember when I was young- like five or six I was making photos of my dog in the backyard next to these flowers. My family asked me where I found these flowers. I was surprised because they were there in our back yard. I realised if I wanted to show something that if I took an image of it then people would see. It’ s the magic of photography and cinema.” He adds, bursting with enthusiasm, “That is why I prefer to use images rather than words. I know English film is about high-speed editing and an orientation to speech, but cinema is not about words. Cinema is not about telling a story it is (for me) about showing a story. You give the viewer a space to breath and think. They can decide whether something is beautiful or horrible”.
Devoid of distracting high-speed editing and dialogue, Aquarela forces us to experience the beauty, terror and power of nature in equal measure. In a panoramic opening scene, we look out on an expanse of ice-arresting in its beauty. A small car hurtles across the ice. In the background we hear a voice state-they are going to fall through the ice. And indeed, the inevitable happens.
“It was accidental of course” he states when explaining the footage, “I went to that location to film the ice but unfortunately this happened on the first day of shooting. It changed everything immediately. In the shot I saw people driving on the ice and we all knew that they would fall through the ice. Of course, I was not sure if I should include the moment or not. And normally in documentaries you will not show this type of content, but this was not an isolated incident. In fact, it happened a total of nine times while we were there. It became important in showing our relationship with nature. How we are so confident, and we think we know everything. But nature is much stronger and if we are to survive, we must start to acknowledge that.”