Water on Earth exists within a closed system, and in general, we're jacking it up. There's a lot we don't understand about our world and how we interact with it, and in the case of water it's something we should think about very carefully, because if we can't drink it, we all die.
According to the documentary Water, the substance retains the memory of what has happened to it, and as one might expect, bad memories affect water in negative fashion, while good ones do the opposite. My take on statistics would indicate that after 4 billion years, water's memories would be a 'wash' - more or less equal in good and bad. But the theory presented finally is that during 'phase change,' when water turns to a vapor in clouds, everything is erased and water has a chance to start fresh. If all of this sounds a bit too New Age for you, you're probably not alone. While I wholeheartedly agree with the overriding theme of Water - we need to take better care of it and ourselves - as a documentary, the movie is repetitive, the science seems spurious, and the product as a whole will turn off most viewers who aren't already in the choir. It's a shame, too, since the message delivered is pretty imperative.
It's a gorgeous movie, filled with beautiful imagery, tons of hi-def shots of rain, crystals, waterfalls, streams, and even the interview subjects are filmed with an eye for beauty. It sets up its sole motif early, and sticks with it for 90 minutes; first talk about some aspect of water from a religious perspective: apocrypha, sacramental aspects, holy water, baptism, myths, and what-have-you, then produce evidence from a maverick researcher or scholar that relates to the spiritual/ historical aspect previously mentioned. The first few times it's a neat approach, but as example after example goes by, the repetition begins to churn, making the movie seem as formless as its subject. Only at the end when weather disasters, floods and tsunamis mostly, are brought up as seemingly some evidence of water's revenge does the movie veer away from a relatively boring lecture into a form of life. But as noted above, it's a life that Johnny Lunchbox will reject as psychobabble.
I won't pretend to delve into the science involved, most of it is touched on only lightly. 'Structured' water is mentioned a lot, and how that substance is far superior to 'dead' water that's been abused by municipal pipes, chemical treatment and other indignities. It seems to be presented that water is structured, essentially, by people talking nice to it or playing classical music. The splashy experiments of a Japanese researcher, Dr. Emoto, are a recurrent theme. Basically, the doctor verbally abuses or praises water, then quickly freezes it. The angry water forms ugly crystals, while the happy water (up to and including water that hears the names of 'good' people like Mother Teresa) forms beautiful crystals. I take particular umbrage with the claim that water which listens to heavy metal music turns bad. That's a subjective opinion in my book. Another of Emoto's positive/ negative energy experiments involves rice in water, it's an experiment easily replicated, (ignore some of the rice water, talk nicely to some of it, and harangue the final test subject) but takes 30 days. I'll attempt it myself and update this review with the results.
While something of a skeptic, I believe in a holistic approach to life. To that end, I don't doubt or decry the purpose of this documentary. It's pretty clear that having a positive outlook and treating things (even inanimate ones) with respect yields positive results. (Just think back to what your dad told you about your first car, and what happened when you never changed its oil.) But can water feel hate? Why take the chance? For me the problem with this documentary and the experiments behind it is a human flaw best addressed by the hip-hop phrase 'act like you know.' Though religion and science intersect more and more, maybe it's not as important that we unravel all the secrets, or prove that we are right, but that we just act like we know - in more hip-hop parlance, act like we've got some sense. We know it makes no sense to dump chemical waste in the river, why not act like it? In trotting out endless examples of curious-science that seem a little loony, Water as a documentary turns in on itself over and over again, alienating the non-believer and diluting its obvious and pretty righteous message. What, then, to make of this closing statement from the movie: 'The universe was created by the source.' What does that even mean? Perhaps the old advertising slogan 'it's not nice to fool Mother Nature' would instead turn the trick.
Water's 1.78:1 widescreen presentation for 16 x 9 TVs is quite beautiful, with a crisp, refreshing image (bear with me, please, I can't help myself) and crystal clear colors. Really, it is a gorgeous transfer, with compression artifacts (aliasing and posterizing mostly) occurring only during archival footage from 60 years ago, or amateur footage of recent water-related disasters. Otherwise, colors are rich, deep and naturalistic and black levels are great too.
Our screener copy arrived sans technical data, so I'll comment only on what I heard, not speculating on any particular Dolby processing. Ultimately, this is a fine sounding movie, with a nice dynamic range and fine balance between narration, interview dialog and the ethereal soundtrack. I find it odd that foreign-speaking subjects are looped rather than subtitled, but this is my only complaint, and one that doesn't relate to audio quality.
Our screener is of the auto-play variety, no menus or anything, and has one Trailer for a similarly themed movie. Otherwise, no other extras are included. This doesn't necessarily represent the final product.
I can't argue with the need for more 'positive energy' both within ourselves and with how we relate to the world. This certainly includes better stewardship of water. Municipal water, chemically treated and sitting in pipes is bound to be worse off than mountain spring water, but this movie's repetitive stream of religious/ scientific examples of the sacred nature of water - minus in-depth, empirical explanation and evidence - comes off ultimately as somewhat less-than-convincing, wherein the deluge of examples hopes to convince, but will probably just turn off most viewers who aren't already mentally invested in such thinking. It's unfortunate, because the message - treat the world, each other, and especially water with more respect - is a no-brainer we no-brainers need to actually take to heart. Of Water I'll say Rent It with a grain of salt, it's beautiful to look at and maybe if you watch it with your favorite beverage (water with fermented grain) you'll be more open to the message. But as far as documentaries go, this one is mostly a wash.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com