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LEVIATHAN (review)

Written by Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsecv
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsecv

Starring Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Aleksey Serebryakov and Elena Lyadova

Nothing seems more daunting than a Russian tragedy, but let’s face it, it’s what the Russian people know best. In a country overruled by the abuse of political power and religious leaders, it’s no surprise that artists have been churning out subversive works for years like exported vodka. Andrey Zvyagintsecv’s LEVIATHAN is just one of those works that is brimming with political and religious commentary on both the micro and macro scale. Just like the title suggests, LEVIATHAN is massive in scale, a twisted story of political corruption and a blue-collar man who goes up against the very institution of power. Already gaining buzz from its premiere at Cannes earlier this year, this powerful tale paints an indelible portrait of those who feel that their country is failing them.

In order to resolve a land dispute with his town, small-town fisherman Nikolai (Aleksey Serebryakov) asks a lawyer friend of his, Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), for help with his case. When his friend arrives, he also brings documents with him that will threaten the good standing of the town’s incredibly corrupt mayor. When things begin to go wrong after Dmitri’s failed blackmailing, things also begin to go wrong for Nikolai and his entire family. His life begins to spiral out of control, and since this is a Russian tragedy, suffice it to say that things don’t end well for anyone.


It’s difficult to say too much about LEVIATHAN without giving too much of the plot away, but it just needs to be seen to be appreciated. The grand scale of the film, including its almost 2.5-hour running time may be off putting, but never once does the film begin to drag, or do plot lines feel redundant. The film is so meticulously crafted and loaded with beautiful imagery that reflects the themes and struggles of both the characters and the current Russian political landscape, that it is impossible not to feel moved by Zvyagintsecv’s achievement. It is cold, dark and incredibly moody, just like one would imagine such a film to be, but filled with an incredible poetic beauty that make missing this title an awful shame.

4.5 sheep

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