TIFF 2014: Leviathan – Capsule Review

Director: Andrey Zvyaginstev
Actors: Alexey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovitchenkov, Anna Ukolova
Writer: Andrey Zvyaginstev, Oleg Negin
Country: Russia
Runtime: 141 min
Rating: 14A

Majestic yet exceptionally slow, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (2014) is a challenging film that requires patience to appreciate. Set in a Russian seaside town, this film follows the downward spiral of proud yet abusive patriarch Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov). This man must fight the local authorities when corrupt mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov) decides to buy the land on which his family home rests. When level-headed lawyer Dima (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov) arrives to help, he does more harm than good, and sets into motion an unstoppable series of events. Like the sea that it so often focuses upon, this somber film is in no hurry. The scenery that is frequently shown at length is not an addition to the story, but an integral part of it. Zvyaginstev includes some unexpected perspectives in his filming, such as showing a brutal beating from the inside of a parked car with the radio blaring. Indeed, the arresting music that appears at the opening and conclusion of the film provides effective bookends, and lends a feeling of grandiosity best achieved through sound. Leviathan is a strong work, being well made and well filmed. Unfortunately, however, my interest in the story and characters began to waver by its conclusion. The film is certainly sad, but also curiously bereft of emotion, making it difficult for viewers to care about the characters. Patient filmgoers will appreciate the technical prowess of the film, but it is certainly not for everybody.

Overall Rating: 7.4