“All power comes from God. As long as it suits Him, fear not.”
After receiving an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, I finally decided to watch this 140 minute long movie. I was hopeful I was finally going to see Russians not having to play villains, but to my surprise this film attacks its own society and the corruption behind its government and official church. It takes a while to get into but after the slow opening twenty minutes the plot began to hook me and the next two hours flew by as the plot got better and better. Despite being a film that brilliantly attacks the corruption of its own government and society, it does so in a universal way so we can all relate to these issues. Loosely based on the biblical story of Job, we follow the main character go through one injustice after another. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev brilliantly captures the humanity of this working class family who are forced out of their own property by the corrupt local Mayor. It is the universal tale of an everyday man struggling against the injustices of an oppressive system (The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” song came to mind several times while watching this film). We get glimpses of hope when a friend of the family comes to their defense and tries to confront the big man by uncovering some dirt from his past, but some interesting twists take place and the family dynamics are shaken. The final fifteen minutes of this film were brilliant and I am glad Zvyaginstsev didn’t sell out for an easy or feel good ending. The cinematography is also gorgeous thanks to the beautiful location. The film takes place in a small coastal town near the Barents Sea and we get several amazing shots of the waves crashing into the rocks. The beautiful landscape is a huge contrast with the darkness of the corrupt characters. Leviathan is a brilliant film that works as a social satire. Leviathan is a monstrous sea creature mentioned in the Bible, and it is the perfect title for a film that focuses on a small man facing monstrous obstacles. I was surprised that I ended up enjoying this film as much as I did. I still have a lot of catching up with my foreign films, but so far this is my favorite and my frontrunner for the Oscars.
The performances in this film were also great. Aleksey Serebryakov plays the lead character and he captures the essence and humanity of the hard working class. He has built his own home were he lives with his wife and child working as a mechanic. His wife works at a fish factory. He is desperate and angry for the injustice he is suffering knowing that he is about to lose his home and property. His good friend who is now a lawyer in Moscow has come to his rescue. He is also brilliantly played by Vladimir Vdovichenkov. He is the voice of reason in the film and is always trying to calm down Nikolay who has a strong temper. The corrupt lawyer is played by Roman Madyanov. He makes it easy for the audience to hate him because he represents all the injustice and corruption that we face. Nikolay’s wife is played by the beautiful Elena Lyadova and she does a great job of portraying this fragile character. However my favorite supporting performance came from Anna Ukolova who plays a friend of the family and also works with Nikolay’s wife. She always has some sarcastic comment about men or officials and she delivers most of the laughs in the movie. Her character helped lighten up the mood at times. The other thing that lightens the mood is the constant drinking in the movie (warning: you might get drunk just by watching them jug down those Vodka bottles). The harsh conditions that these people face force them to find refuge in their alcohol in order to suppress their pain (something many people can relate to as well). What really stands out in this film is that instead of portraying some of the key scenes Zvyaginstev decides to omit them and we are only exposed to the results and its consequences.