Film review: Leviathan - sympathetic characters, difficult situation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 10:51pm

Aleksey Serebryakov, Roman Madyanov, Elena Lyadova
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Category: IIB (Russian)

For those who abhor slow cinema, sitting through the 140-minute Leviathan will probably require the patience of Job. But those able to deal with long takes and a circuitous storytelling style should find plenty to appreciate in Andrey Zvyagintsev's thought-provoking account of a man whose northern Russian hometown is far from idyllic, even though it's set amid some stunning scenery.

It's not just that the coastal locale has seen better days economically. It's also that the stench of corruption threatens to suffocate the likes of Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), a mechanic who's expected to regularly service the car of a senior cop free of charge, and whose family home — or, more accurately, the land that it's built on — is coveted by Vadim (Roman Madyanov), the town's crooked mayor.

Unwilling to surrender his place without a fight, Kolya calls upon Dmitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a former army buddy who's now a Moscow lawyer, for assistance. But Dmitriy brings even more trouble to bear on his friend.

By the time a priest tells the story of Job and Leviathan to a depressed Kolya, the odds are heavily stacked against him, his wife (Elena Lyadova) and son (Sergey Pokhodaev) being able to stay in their house.

With a portrait of President Vladimir Putin and various Russian religious icons on display in Vadim's office, it's easy to look upon Leviathan as an indictment of the ruling state and church.

But although every adult in this powerful film knocks back vodka like it's water, the common people come across as understandably human rather than stereotypical caricatures — they are characters whose sad lot one feels deeply for.

Leviathan opens on March 5