Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is a film about a family being harassed by a corrupt mayor and his associates. Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov) has car repair business on his property, where he lives with his teenage boy, Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) and his second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova). But crooked mayor named Vadim (Roman Madyanov) wants to repossess Kolya’s land. Vadim has the whole town in his pocket. Kolya has hired his friend, Moscow lawyer Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to defend him. When all the appeals have failed, Dmitri tells Kolya that he has dug out documents proving the mayor’s corruption and his previous crimes. Dmitri meets with Vadim and blackmail him. Not only does he want Kolya to keep the land, he also wants some money. Dmitri leaves satisfied that his client will get what Dmitri has demanded. But we know better. A man of God (Heck! Vadim plays God), Vadim regularly meets with the local bishop and attend Russian Orthodox mass. Things are not about to get better for Kolya. His son does not like Lilya. And Kolya finds out that Dmitri and Lilya are lovers. Leviathan is so effective. There is throughout the film a controlled, slowly building gloom and doom atmosphere. The work of cinematographer Mikhail Krichman should be noted. And the ensemble acting. Leviathan is not only a provocative look at Russian society, but a good story well told.

You should know… The story of American welder Marvin Heemeyer was the inspiration for Leviathan. Angered over the outcome of a zoning dispute that cost him his land and his business, Heemeyer armored a bulldozer with layers of steel, concrete and shields of bullet-resistant plastic, and went on a rampage to demolish 13 buildings in the town of Granby, Colorado. He then killed himself.

And the Oscar went to… Russia’s Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, sharply criticized Leviathan portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing vodka-swigging humans and found that there was not a single positive character in the movie. Some Russian journalists criticised director Andrey Zvyagintsev for accepting government subsidies, and asked whether government funding had no influence on the content of the movie. But Zvyagintsev answered that he had always felt completely independent from the Ministry in writing and shooting the movie. Surprisingly, some Metropolitan Bishops called the film “honest”. So, the selection of Leviathan to represent Russia as Foreign language film probably came from the international acclaim the film has been receiving. But Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, from Poland won the Oscar.

Rémi-Serge Gratton



Directed by:
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Screenplay by:
Oleg Negin
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Aleksei Serebryakov
Elena Lyadova
Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Roman Madyanov
Sergey Pokehodaev
140 min.
Rated 14A
In Russian with English subtitles

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