Lots of flowing water, classical music, and narration from Willem Dafeo. That’s 2022’s documentary film River for you. Not a bad combo, eh?
To put it mildly, this thing has some incredible cinematography. It’s also a fascinating reminder of the way rivers have impacted upon human lives. Let’s meander through this SOB, then, and take a look at the sediment.
Metaphors, Flowing Water, Classical Music, and More Than One River
River is directed by Jennifer Peedom and Joseph Nizeti. The documentary launched in 2022 (although some sources claim 2021) and it’s now available on streaming services.
It’s an Australian production, distributed by London’s Dogwoof. It’s along the lines of Fire of Love (2022) in its montage odyssey through incredible landscapes. And here are River’s directors with a brief introduction to this one.
The description of the synopsis on the official River site is this.
“Throughout history, rivers have shaped our landscapes and our journeys; flowed through our cultures and dreams. RIVER takes its audience on a journey through space and time; spanning six continents, and drawing on extraordinary contemporary cinematography, including satellite filming, the film shows rivers on scales and from perspectives never seen before. Its union of image, music and sparse, poetic script will create a film that is both dream-like and powerful, honouring the wildness of rivers but also recognises their vulnerability.”
There’s not too much footage of this available online yet, but maybe that’s for the best. As we don’t want to spoil its many visual delights.
Although a brief documentary, it’s an artistic journey through the splendours of the planet. Seriously, some of the shots are genuinely jaw-dropping. It’s an incredible spectacle, all to the tune of some brilliant classical music.
That directorial flair makes for some incredible peaks in River, where you’re staring at this stuff like it’s a work of some genius artist.
Willem Dafoe’s attachment to the project has helped it gain a wider audience, but this is one rather disappointing aspect to River.
As with Fire of Love’s pretentious warbling from narrator Miranda Julie, we get pretty much exactly the same problem in River. As much as we like Dafoe, the script he’s handed by Robert Macfarlane is pompous bollocks.
River pursues an eco-friendly message, indicating human interference with rivers and how this is damaging our world.
The production team partnered with The Rivers Trust and Thames21 as part of the film’s environmental efforts.
Obviously, a very important message to flag up and one we stand behind. But the way it accomplishes this isn’t impactful and, in fact, just comes across as a bit annoying. Metaphors won’t make onlooking right-wingers alter their climate change denial and environmental destruction stances.
We think River would have worked better without the narration.
The imagery is more than enough which, again, is the highlight to the documentary film. And that’s what’ll stick with you after watching it, the dramatic vistas and relentless, powerful, pouring water.
Alongside that, the music is fantabulous. And you can hear a few samples of this soundtrack below, which naturally works very well with the on-screen imagery.
Much of that was performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, whose director is the much esteemed Richard Tognetti.
Again, in tandem with the cinematography that’s where the documentary shines. River is definitely worth your time—certainly as an impressive audio-visual achievement.
However, it’s a reminder to everyone about toning down the postulating over the nature of being when you’re presenting something like this.
The imagery more than speaks for itself, which is slightly undermined by the film’s need to pontificate constantly with narration that often doesn’t make any sense.
One to watch with your eyes, then. Especially if you like rivers.