Leviathan Screen 89 of 22 reviews

Leviathan

2014

Leviathan Poster
  • One of the true surprises of Leviathan is how, for such a dour film, so much humor can be found in it. These people could just as easily be the townsfolk of Bedford Falls or John Ford's Ireland, and the film feels genuinely fond of them, corruption and all.

  • Director Andrey Zvyagintsev renders this story strange by presenting it as the stuff of biblical allegory, invoking the perspective of an angry God with imposing landscape shots and a tone of preternatural dread. As in their previous feature, Elena, Zvyagintsev and cowriter Oleg Negin modulate their social critique with sharp, ironic humor; the mayor, in particular, is an inspired satirical creation, at once a spiteful monster and a graceless buffoon.

  • Leviathan certainly carries metaphysical resonance, sometimes explicitly invoked, sometimes alluded to in cinematography that conveys a stark impression of human isolation and vulnerability in the midst of indifferent nature.

  • We encounter people and civilization, and are forced to reckon with how the former are barely better than beasts, and the latter is a lie. But it’s less a condemnation than a resignation, as illustrated by that pendulum swing back to sea. The degree to which such resignation reflects the film’s point of view, and not just of its beleaguered characters, is an unsettled ambiguity at the heart of Andrei Zvyagintsev’s extraordinarily accomplished movie.

  • Though it takes place in a small town and involves only a handful of characters, the Russian drama “Leviathan” has a feeling of expansiveness, even grandeur... The film’s ambitions are so grand and multi-dimensional, and mostly accomplished, that Zvyagintsev’s audacity can only be applauded. His is a career that now must be counted one of the most significant in contemporary cinema.

  • Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film combines allegory, brutal melodrama, black humor and strikingly beautiful compositions, each frame dense with meaning. “Leviathan” stays absolutely gripping, right up to the O. Henry twist that slams the film shut.

  • The English subtitles can’t do the cursing justice; this is discourse so deeply brutal even a casual remark stings like—forgive me—vodka in the wound. Luckily Mikhail Krichman, Zvyagintsev’s usual cinematographer, is just the man to film the icy bay, the weedy barren town, the burnt-out church—and later another one, impossibly lavish—and the hulking skeleton of a giant whale, which rests in the low tide and is, on the question of God’s whereabouts, mute.

  • ...This is where those gorgeous, richly detailed landscapes reveal themselves to be more than the exertion of astonishingly careful craftsmanship; they are the less tangible complement to the literal leviathan, the great whale that occasionally shows itself, most notably in Lilya's rapturous, heartbreakingly gorgeous, and ambiguous final scene.

  • It would be churlish to dispute the crushing logic, the symbiotic inevitability, that underpins every plot-point, however minor. Zvyagintsev’s talents extend far beyond that. What makes him an artist rather than simply a craftsman is his ability to express in visual and aural terms the themes and tensions that drive the narrative.

  • First half is like Kobayashi or Preminger, laying bare power structures and relations (arthouse cinema doesn't seem to do that anymore in the West, maybe because power structures are no longer visible to us as they were in the 60s, and still are in Russia). the second half turns into something else, a random unstructured place where nothing takes root, the people are semi-functioning alcoholics and Job-like resignation is the only solution... A perverse, wholly cynical, immensely sad movie.

  • Zvyagintsev is a precision-master of composition. Whether putting together a montage of breathtaking natural curios or tracking characters in the quiet drives between confrontations, the feeling is always that — as we wrote about David Fincher, he "holds his characters at arm’s length — perhaps all the better to see them in their entirety."

  • Zvyagintsev’s ability, in Leviathan, to blend such comic moments with a lacerating critique of institutional power, moments of visual grandeur and an element of metaphysical inquiry (Hobbes, Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job are all evoked in the film) will ensure his further ascent into the upper ranks of the world’s auteurs.

  • This writer felt that the film finally didn’t quite deliver as much as the first 90 minutes had promised. But then again, it promises so much more than most movies, and it would be profoundly churlish – not to say erroneous – to describe Leviathan as anything other than a substantial and very impressive achievement.

  • Rather than building towards the finality of a single climax, "Leviathan" injects several of them into the tapestry of its elegant design. A major criminal event takes place off-camera, and the fates of several people remain uncertain, but the movie never uses its vagaries as an excuse. Instead, Zvyagintsev conveys the frustrations of the mounting chaos through alluring visual symbolism.

  • Zvyagintsev’s symbolism borders on abrasive, yet the calculating and flawed patterns of the characters deserve to be overtly mirrored by their surroundings. This relationship gives the film’s conflict a massive feel, despite being an incredibly micro narrative.

  • Where Elena dissected Russia’s particularly extreme economic chasm between the rich and poor, implicitly sounding a warning over the anger and hostility that must ensue, Leviathan is a remarkably direct broadside against the collusion of the Russian Orthodox Church and a government corrupt on pretty much every conceivable level.

  • It’s indicative of Mr. Zvyagintsev’s storytelling that when bread that this priest gives away ends up in a muddy pen — where pigs soon devour these religiously suggestive loaves — the director holds the shot of the guzzling porkers in what can only be described as the needless force-feeding of the viewer. Such bluntness can be maddening, even as Mr. Zvyagintsev’s feeling for beauty (every pig ear looks lighted with care) grips you.

  • Zvyagintsev is an aesthete and a Big Thinker, sure, but he’s also a great storyteller, and I found myself caring a great deal about what happened to the characters in Leviathan — what happened with Dmitri’s blackmail plot against Vadim and Kolya’s attempts to keep his property. It’s not that the film doesn’t answer these questions — it does — but as the spiritual subtext took over, I couldn’t help but feel that something essential had been lost.

  • In his three previous films (The Return, The Banishment, Elena), Zvyagintsev frequently pushed past sober into dour, leaning too heavily on a characteristically Soviet sense of gloom and doom. (See also: Alexander Sokurov, Nikita Mikhalkov, Pavel Lungin. Is there a modern-day Chekhov in the country somewhere?) Leviathan is another downer, but it’s considerably looser and livelier than its predecessors, verging at times on black comedy.

  • I enjoyed and was impressed by Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsky’s Leviathan(2014), though I’m not sure it quite lives up to all the hype following its debut in competition at Cannes, where it won best screenplay... The depiction of modern Russian society in the provinces is a grim one, albeit one displayed in sweeping landscape shots that suggest the waste of this stunning region.

  • Once you get past the title and the ponderous opening scene with its straining-for-importance score, the fourth film by Russian art cinema’s Great White Hope proves to be his most enjoyable and least oppressive to date. The mise en scène is as muscular as ever but less in your face, and a welcome sense of humor helps to keep Zvyagintsev’s predilection for overwrought portentousness in check.

  • The film itself isn’t so much dumb as it is an overly affected chore, purportedly reworking the Book of Job into a studied, Philip Glass-scored critique of Putin-era Russia. Awash with very, very meaningful images of the remains of colossal marine creatures, a sky always silvered in blue greys, and a portly mayor who at least a dozen viewers have already likened to Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Leviathan is immediately suffocated by the portentous weight of Zvyagintsev’s commitment to Serious Cinema.

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