My first wow film of 2015 is another one of those films that was made in 2014 but not released in Canada until 2015. I don’t know if it will ever come to Winnipeg, but I had the chance to see it with Gareth in Toronto last weekend and I'm sure glad I got the chance to see this gorgeous film on the big screen.
Leviathan is one of those bleak, relentlessly depressing, always-grey films, which somehow suits the north Russian fishing village where it takes place. Since the film makes references to the Book of Job, it’s no surprise that the protagonist (Kolya, played by Aleksey Serebryakov) is a man who is about to lose everything, including his home, his wife and his freedom. His bad temper contributes to this, but all of those losses have more to do with others than with him, and are largely undeserving. He is most definitely a victim here, and his closest friends are no help (as in Job). Kolya's wife, Lilya (played by Yelena Lyadova), gets some serious airtime as a desperately unhappy woman who feels unloved and useless at home and bored at work. Her attempts to find distractions from her unhappy prove to be singularly unsuccessful. Meanwhile, their son Roman (Sergey Pokhodaev) tries without success to understand what is going on with his parents.
It’s no big surprise that Kolya would turn to the vodka bottle in the midst of his struggles. But everyone in Leviathan drinks vodka like water. I have never watched a film that made me never want to touch a drop of alcohol again more than this one. I don’t know how realistic all the drinking is, but if it’s even halfway there, it’s scary stuff.
There are many references in Leviathan to Christianity and the church. It’s not pretty. Indeed, the film is an indictment of the church (at almost all levels) as well as an indictment of all levels of the Russian government. Church and government alike are pictured as corrupt and without a soul (there are a few exceptions).
The acting in Leviathan is phenomenal, as is the cinematography. The direction by Andrei and Andrey Zvyagintsev is flawless. It’s a very long film, but it did not feel long because I was engaged for every minute of it. I loved this film and it is sure to make my top ten of 2015. **** My mug is up.