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VENICE 2018 Out of Competition

Victor Kossakovsky • Director

“I realised that water is a perfect subject for a documentary filmmaker”


- VENICE 2018: Russian director Victor Kossakovksy talks to us about his latest documentary, Aquarela

Victor Kossakovsky • Director
(© La Biennale di Venezia - foto ASAC)

Director, writer, cinematographer and editor Victor Kossakovsky, is an innovative documentary filmmaker whose distinctive filmography spans many different subjects, exploring the interplay of reality and poetry. In many of his films, as with Aquarela [+see also:
film review
interview: Victor Kossakovsky
film profile
(presented out of competition at the Venice Film Festival), Kossakovsky has simultaneously acted as director, editor, cinematographer and writer.

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Cineuropa: Why did you want to shoot this film in 96 frames per second?
Victor Kossakovsky:
Every time I’d seen rain on film, I’d noticed that it appeared as short white lines, and this always felt wrong to me. So, when I decided to make Aquarela, I decided to test cameras and to shoot at different speeds. The best was 96 frames per second, because the rain could be seen as separate drops of water, so it was clear that this was the right speed for water.

Why did you want to make a film about water?
If you are a fiction film director, you search for an actor and hope to find one with a great range of faces who can portray many emotions – who can be evil one moment and good in the next. For example, Meryl Streep - she can be everything. I thought: “If I’m a documentary filmmaker, what would be a good subject, showing this same variety of emotions?” And I realised that water is perfect - the sea can be peaceful one moment and kill you in the next.

The film begins in Lake Baikal in Siberia. Why did you choose this location?
In the middle of my previous film, ¡Vivan las antípodas! [+see also:
film profile
, a little girl told me that in her next life, she would like to come back as water, much like Lake Baikal. It’s very clean and, if you peer into it, you can see 100 metres down. So, I went there, took my camera to the exact spot she talked about. I took my tripod and started to film the water. The idea was to film the beauty of the ice. Then I noticed people searching for cars and, suddenly, the film took a different direction, almost by chance. 

It seems insane. Why do you think the people drive on the lake?
They believe that they know the ice and that nothing will happen to them. Unfortunately, water can be very unpredictable and sometimes the ice melts in different places. That particular year it was earlier than usual.

Then you widen the geographical scope of the film and start to look around the globe. What governed these choices?
After the accident with the car, I thought to myself: “What happens next?” The next segment had to be about ice, and that made us go to Greenland. Then we looked at an iceberg and said to ourselves: “If we put the camera under an island it will float out to an ocean.” So, we went to the ocean. The ocean flows back to the land, so then we returned to land. 

Accompanying the incredible visuals is a heavy metal score from Finnish composer and cellist, Eicca Toppinen, and his so-called “cello-metal” band, Apocalyptica. Why did you choose him?
When you put together a production, you have spending obligations. I had to spend money for artistic purposes in the Ukraine and in the UK. I started searching for composers in the UK. The initial list was 2,000 and we made a short list of 272. This was whittled down to 5. The music was great, but we never felt it was quite right. It was always missing something. Then, by chance, it turned out that Apocalyptica had a British connection in their management and so we were able to use them. It was a beautiful solution.

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