Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Starring Elena Lyadova, Alexey Serebryakov and Vladimir Vdovichenkov
In US Cinemas December 25th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

A decomposing whale skeleton lays abandoned on a beach.  Bleak imagery to mirror a bleaker story, often portrayed with a level of compassion and humour, but bleak nonetheless.  Leviathan is a Russian drama which examines Russian corruption both politically and socially, the complex system and one’s relationship with God.

A barren Russian village is the setting where Kolya lives with his young second wife Lilya and teenaged son Roma.  Kolya inherited this family land and has built his house upon it.  But the mayor wants it, and what the mayor wants, he gets one way or another.  Kolya’s lawyer friend from Moscow, Dmitri, has come to his aid in a fight against the mayor who has now managed to force the sale of Kolya’s land in order to redevelop.  Dmitri’s only move that he has left is to blackmail the mayor with the threat of exposing his bad deeds if he pursues this purchase of Kolya’s land.  This blackmail attempt merely fazes the mayor who bounces back immediately with his intimidating cronies in tow.

The mayor being only one element of the story, the general theme of political corruption is further explored through Kolya’s friends as they drive to the wilderness, drink endless vodka and use framed portraits of Russian leaders as target practice.  While these targets are of leaders past, a portrait of Putin hangs proudly in the mayor’s office, often blatantly displayed in the camera’s frame.

Leviathan starts as a tale of one man taking on the government, it eventually evolves into something grander.  Things escalate, the bleakness heightens and the film becomes devastating.  Slowly and beautifully devastating.

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