Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan (2014)
  • Time: 140 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Cast: Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Aleksey Serebryakov


On the outskirts of a small coastal town in the Barents Sea, where whales sometimes come to its bay, lives an ordinary family: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), his wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and their teenage son Romka. The family is haunted by a local corrupted mayor (Roman Madyanov), who is trying to take away the land, a house and a small auto repair shop from Kolya. To save their homes Kolya calls his old Army friend in Moscow (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), who has now become an authoritative attorney. Together they decide to fight back and collect dirt on the mayor.

One comment

  • Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan compares our two order of life: the divine and the human, aka our spiritual and our worldly, aka grace and nature.
    The title’s allusion to the book of Job refers to the magnificence of God’s creation, especially how it dwarf’s man’s makings and understanding. In contrast, the man-made leviathan is the monstrously corrupt and dehumanizing political system that enables the village mayor Vadim to destroy the virtuous Kolya, his family and even his Moscow lawyer Dimitriy. The latter retreats broken and disillusioned in his faith in Russia’s law. For the leviathan metaphor the mayor is cast as a blithering blubber and not the mean and hungry look.
    The film opens and closes on the vast pounding sea, which with the spectacular sky shots represents God’s creation. The sordid village landscape, the monster cranes destroying Kolya’s house and auto-body shop and the scenes of brutal court process represent the human leviathan, an unfeeling monster. The judge’s speed-speak recitation of the court decisions portrays that justice as mechanical, impenetrable, inhumane. Thus Kolya’s protest against unfair expropriation leaves him homeless, his wife Lilya dead, their son reorphaned, and himself unjustly jailed for her murder.
    In Job the leviathan is the whale, of which we see two here. One is the huge skeletal reminder on the shore where Kolya’s teen son Roman finds solitude. The bones express the death of God’s largest creature, so the loss of His influence.
    This is confirmed by the corrupt Orthodox priest’s support of Vadim’s crimes and sins — and his benefit from them. The platitudes of his sermon collapse under Vadim’s reflection of the priest’s hypocrisy. “God’s eyes are always upon you,” the shameless criminal mayor tells his son. For the mayor and this priest, both man’s and God’s laws apply to others not themselves. Both men build their empires by exploiting those laws. The priest’s ornate garb expresses a wasteful self-service, insensitivity to his community’s needs and a vanity that betrays the essence of Christianity.
    The second whale is a small live one we see in the sea behind our last view of Lilya. Perhaps it’s our clue to how Lilya dies. The head-scar consistent with Kolya’s hammer argues against her suicide. But we know Kolya too well to share the corrupt court’s conviction. Young Roman’s anger seems insufficient to let his father stay in jail for him. The small leviathan in the water may be the signature of the large leviathan, the mayor’s monstrous system, suggesting one of his henchmen did her in, to frame Kolya, as he showed he could kill the lawyer earlier.
    The death is not explicitly explained because we don’t need to know how she died. The film’s point is not the one character’s fate but the overgrowth of corruption and injustice that pervades modern society, with even the self-serving church’s support.
    The film clearly condemns the Russian oligarchy. Hence the Putin portrait on the mayor’s wall and the zeal with which Russia’s past leaders’ pictures are used for target practice. The men will need more vodka before targeting Yeltsin. As for the current monster, Putin, “his time will come.” Though the flow of vodka makes it specifically Russia it’s not exclusively Russia. Other modern societies have the same unfeeling legal system, corruption, compromised church and their own form of numbing narcotic. This exposure of Russia is an exposure of our time. That it was made in suppressed Russia speaks all the more for its courage and passion. For more analyses see http://www.yacowar.blogspot.com.

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