Winner of Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Leviathan is a dark and captivating tragic drama set in modern day Russia. A story of corruption, fear and complete desperation, Leviathan hits the audience with brutal force, showing its setting to be a place where not even the strongest have any hope of opposing its cruel and merciless government.
The film centres on the life of Kolia (Alexei Serebriakov) who lives with his teenage son and new wife. The family are being evicted from their home by the authorities, where Kolia’s family have lived for generations. In order to try and save his home, Kolia seeks assistance from his old army friend Dimitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a high flying lawyer from Moscow. Kolia and Dimitri go head to head with the town’s mayor, fantastically portrayed by Roman Madyanov, who is a wicked and cunning man with a shady past who will do everything in his power to get re-elected in the up and coming election.
Leviathan deals with very sobering themes which could have rendered it a draining watch for the audience. Surprisingly, however, the film is refreshingly humorous at several points throughout, usually after its characters have drank copious amounts of vodka.
Director Andrei Zvyagintsev’s pessimism about the state of his country shines through in his modern take on the Book of Job from the Hebrew bible. There are strong biblical references throughout and an effortless symmetry seems to play out from start to finish. Bold panoramic landscapes from the opening sequence are later used in scenes at a slightly different angle in order to see how the characters and story fit into the images. At times it lacks some pace and a couple of scenes seemed to drag on an unnecessarily long time. However, Leviathan more than makes up for this during its high tension climatic scenes and devastatingly gloomy ending.
Contrary to the opinions of the snoring man at the back of my screening, Leviathan is, in my opinion, a compelling film with great performances from the whole cast. It is full of passion and delivers its message to the audience with fierce and unrelenting honesty.