© Wild Bunch/Central

Leviathan (Leviafan)
Russia 2014

Opening 12 Mar 2015

Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Writing credits: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Principal actors: Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Roman Madyanov, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Anna Ukolova

A strip of Barents Sea coastal land, in Kolia’s (Aleksey Serebryakov) family for generations, has become a bone of contention between himself and the mayor (Roman Madyanov). The situation is dire; fraud dictates in the small Russian town. Kolia turns to his friend Dmitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), now a veteran Moscow attorney. Soon after arriving, Dmitriy senses the situation’s effect on Kolia’s wife (Elena Lyadova) and young teenage son (Sergey Pokhodaev). Corpulent and corrupt, Vadim rules ruthlessly and never without bodyguards. Participants in the behind-the-scenes scheming include members of the court and church. Instead of being bringing relief, Dmitriy’s presence causes further misfortune. During an outing to celebrate a local friend’s birthday, indiscretion leads to adversity throwing the group into chaos with cheerless results.

Profuse symbolism embellishes a thickly rich story that paints a broad picture of the many foibles of mankind. Greed, graft, betrayal, love, abhorrence: the title, Leviathan, has religious, political, and social connotations. With predominantly Jewish, Christian, and Satanic implications, in contemporary culture Leviathan is the (short) title of Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 work about society’s structure and legitimate government and considered the earliest support of social contract theory. Leviathan is found in Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, poetry, and books – novels, history, sci-fi, comics, et al. Any political innuendos here are directed against the regime that Putin currently heads. Mikhail Krichman’s cinematography is fantastic; the rich sound design augments (minimal and majestic) music from Philip Glass. To the betterment of the film, director Andrey Zvyagintsev wisely allows nature and quietude full-reign to draw us in, daring us not to become emotionally and spiritually involved in the dramatic ironies. Leviathan is Russia’s Foreign Language 2015 nominee for the BAFTA and Oscar® awards. (Marinell Haegelin)

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