It would be difficult to discuss Watermark without mentioning how lovely every frame is. The effect of Edward Burtynsky’s film is immediate and stunning. Watermark is not only pleasing to the eye, but visually memorizing. The script is minimal and it seems that the film relies mainly on visuals and ambient music to create an engaging mood, which is a great choice by the filmmakers as it would be difficult to find the movie’s footage boring to look at. Edward Burtynsky, as well as the other filmmakers involved, definitely have a grasp on how to convey complete messages and emotions through visual imagery. The interviews conducted with people are certainly interesting and informative, and the movie played out must like a well-done PowerPoint presentation on the human connection to water, but even without any dialogue, the movie might still be engaging to watch with only some music playing over footage of water.
Watermark showcases Edward Burtynsky’s usual beautiful yet conflictingly disturbing imagery by including footage of natural beauty up against man made structures, exploring not just the aesthetic of water, but also how human kind interacts with water. One of the most memorable scenes for me is a shot of a body of water that slowly pans up to reveal a massive dam structure in China as the camera approaches by boat. The shot is eerie and emotionally effective, reminding me of scenes from movies when the story transitions to a dark and sinister castle or fortress.
Another thing that I noticed about the film is its ability to present information in a non-judgemental fashion – stating a fact and, for the most part, omitting opinion. Perhaps this is tied to Edward Burtynsky’s ability to focus on areas of landscape that have been reformed by humans and interpret what he sees into something captivating to look at despite the generally held belief that human activity only serves to ruin the landscape.
While there are many instances where someone like myself might look on with disdain at any evidence of industrialization that people carve into the land, Burtynsky finds interesting ways to highlight those scenes and turn them into art works, showcasing them in a way that underlines his love of nature and his conflicting appreciation of manufactured comforts. Watermark seems to be a deeper exploration of the concept that Burtynsky has made into his life’s work, and that, combined with his trademark photographic style, makes the movie unmistakably his own. I suppose one could say that his unique “Manufactured Landscapes” aesthetic style is his watermark on Watermark.