Leviathan – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

March 16, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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Global media has speculated this drama is a polemic against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Certainly it depicts a wide net of corruption, faith and greed but it also plays out a story as old as time.

Winner of this year’s Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and nominated for both BAFTA and Academy Awards, Leviathan is indeed a large film, both in its scope and the parables it offers to be deciphered.

Set in a northern Russian coastal community on the Barents Sea, the landscape is stark and beautiful even as the camera pans over abandoned ships rotting by the water’s edge.  Standing as counterpoint is the huge, bleached white carcass of a whale  – constructed for the movie.

Kolia (Alexey Serbryakov) lives in his house by the sea with younger, second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokodaev). They lead a simple life: Lilya works in the local fish processing plant.

He runs his auto-repair shop from the garage underneath the house which is about to be appropriated for an unknown purpose by the State, personified by local town mayor, Vadim (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov).

Kolia thinks his land is worth more than the offered compensation and believes Vadim stands to make a lot of money.  He brings in ex-army buddy Dmitri (Roman Madyanov), now a savvy Moscow lawyer, to help with a last–ditch appeal to save his home and livelihood.

The more sophisticated Dmitri does his best but the appeal is unsuccessful. Dmitri, however, has had the foresight to amass a highly incriminating dossier on Vadim and levers it in an attempt to get more money for the land, thereby underestimating the ruthless mayor.

Kolia and his friends down vodka like lemonade and it is the uninhibited consumption of alcohol that exacerbates his difficult situation.   The powerful performances, bleak setting and haunting music by Philip Glass create a mesmerizing, if rather long, experience.

Director and co-writer Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return, Elena) has conjured a modern Russian tragedy as he succinctly demonstrates how corruption runs through every level of its society.  Those in power wield it how they wish and there is no recourse for ordinary folk.

4.5/5 Released March 26 Rated M 149mins

Starring Alexey Serbryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovitchenkov, Roman Madyanov

In Russian with English subtitles

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Screenplay Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Music by Philip Glass

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