“LEVIATHAN” My rating: B+
140 minutes | MPAA rating: R
There’s a lot going on just in the title of “Leviathan,” Russia’s nominee for the Oscar for best foreign language film.
Leviathan is the Bible’s term for whales, the huge sea creatures that once provided sustenance for the now-abandoned fishing village that is the film’s primary setting. Their massive bones still litter the sand — along with dozens of beached, decaying boats.
Leviathan is also the title of Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 book about the relationship of the individual to government and society.
In “Paradise Lost,” Milton employs the word to describe Satan’s powers.
All of those references are fitting in the context of this exhausting film, which savagely picks apart the new world order of post-communist Russia.
In writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s multi-character drama, the local government tries to seize the property of Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), who owns the last occupied house on a spit of land that once was home to a thriving fishing community. Now it is under the jurisdiction of the closest viable town.
Kolya lives with his second wife, Lilya (Elena Liadova), and his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev). He runs a car repair business out of his shed. The place is a dump, but at least it’s his dump.
Moreover, Kolya has a long-standing feud with the mayor, Vadim (Roman Madianov), who is not only forcing him to give up his land but is paying only a fraction of its worth.
To help him fight City Hall, Kolya has employed the services of Dimitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), an old army buddy who is now a hotshot Moscow lawyer. Dimitri has assembled a fat dossier of the Mayor’s crimes and abuses; perhaps a blackmail threat will make the city back off.
Against this legal battle Zvyaginstev and co-writer Oleg Negin explore several personal relationships as well as their view that corrupt Communism has been replaced by crony capitalism and the theocratic dictatorship of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Continue Reading »