Leviathan Blu-ray Review
LEVIATHAN is not a pleasant film to watch. It is full of characters that are morally reprehensible. Having said all of that, this movie is engrossing and it envelops you into this cocoon of dysfunction.
LEVIATHAN tells the tale of Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov), a pessimistic man who lives in a small town in Russia. Kolya does not have much ambition. He does mechanic work for his friends. He loves his cigarettes and his vodka. Kolya lives in a valuable piece of property with his second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and his petulant son from a previous marriage Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev). This is a family on edge. Roma doesn’t respect authority and doesn’t like Lilya all that much. Lilya is just going through the motions. She is not fulfilled in her marriage or in her plight in life. She works at a fish processing plant that is as appealing as it sounds.
The corrupt mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov) has his eyes on Koyla’s property. He is forcing him to move at 1/5 the value of the property. It is not immediately clear what Vadim’s intentions for the property are. Koyla is a proud man. He does not want to move. Generations of his family have lived there. Koyla enlists his friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) in the fight for the property. Dmitri is a lawyer from Russia. He knows people in high places there. He is the opposite of Koyla. He is more of an optimist and thinks that things will eventually work out for the best. This sets the stage for the battle between Vadim and Koyla. Vadim has the home field advantage as they say. He’s got city officials in his pocket to do at his bidding. If he goes down, he would surely take them down as well. Dmitri has something up his sleeve though. He has information to blackmail Vadim with.
The story does not have a lot of action in it. Some might find it quite slow going. I thought it fit the movie well. There is not much to do in the town and it should be reflected on the screen. When Koyla and his family and friends go on a little retreat, they go to shoot bottles, drink copious amounts of alcohol, cook out and tell tales. This could be set in any small town in America. It is relatable. The action does get juicier when Dmitri and Lilya are caught fooling around. Koyla attacks both of them violently. Things will never be the same for any of them as it goes forward.
Director/Screenwriter Andrey Zvyagintsev co-wrote the screenplay with Oleg Negin. They both captured well the human spirit and the will to survive. They employ a bit of symbolism with religion coming into play and skeletons of large animals on full display. Everyone is playing chess and moving their pieces around to fit their plans.
I loved the work that Zvyagintsev and his Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman did here. The shots of NW Russia are just breathtaking to behold. The snowy mountain caps, the vast emptiness of the countryside, the stillness of the water are just beautifully shown on the screen. Zvyagintsev is similar to Stanley Kubrick in his filming style. He lets the scenes play out instead of jumping around. You see Lilia walking slowly to a bus stop to continue her slow drudge through life. You spy on luxury cars moving away from a luminous new church in a fantastic wide shot that shows all you need to know.
LEVIATHAN may not be a happy film, but it is bursting with energy that is well worth the look.
Video: This part of Russia isn’t seen much and it is beautifully on display here. There is not a lot of color to be shown, but that is on purpose with the subject matter.
Audio: The sound was solid.
Commentary with Director Andrey Zvyagintsev and Producer Alexander Rudnyansky: It is a basically a nice casual conservation between these two men. At times they amusingly lose focus on what is being shown.
The Making of Leviathan (29:27): This is truly a behind the scenes look at the filming. You see them preparing scenes and going over dialogue.
An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Andrey Zvyagintsev (15:04): The director makes some comments and answers a few questions.
Deleted Scenes (22:18): The scenes are presented in sequence. A bit more background would have helped here.