Movie Review: Watermark
With the dearth of photographers-turned-documentarians from Shaul Schwarz with his film “Narco Cultura” and the recent “Particle Fever” from Mark Levinson, Edward Burtynsky adds another film to the wealth of documentaries with “Watermark.”
“Watermark’s” central premise revolves around how water, and the use of it, shaped humans throughout history. Along with co-director Jennifer Baichwal (“Manufactured Landscapes”), Burtynsky spend his time photographing a multitude of vistas and panoramas which are stunningly rendered.
However, the documentary lacks context. “Watermark” is a far more contemplative film than it is an informative one, leading to scenes that telegraph a slightly one-note message.
Burtynsky’s and Baichwa’s previous film “Manufactured Landscapes” dealt with similar environmental subjects underlying changing land formations due to mass manufacturing. In “Watermark” their goal is far reaching, as both Burtynsky and Baichwal travel from China to India and beyond in order to capture an examination of how societies use water.
Sequences that transition from Hindu worshippers traveling to the Gangi’s to bathe to the cavalier attitude of beachgoers under the coastal California sunshine underscore Burtynsky and Baichwal goals of showcasing the various uses of water in conventional life.
“Watermark” is beautifully shot, which is no surprise considering Burtynsky himself is a professional photographer.
But while the film doesn’t lecture, the ulterior meanings with the brief attitude toward dispensing information, even considering the ambitious means by which both Burtynsky and Baichwal have collected much of this footage, stubbornly tread the surface of the film.