Modern Cinema From Around the World: A Review of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan [Левиафан]”

Leviathan (2014) Poster

*Spoilers Ahead*

The 2014 drama film Leviathan, directed and written by Andrey Zvyagintsev, brings a Russian landscape to life in a bureaucratic battle between a fisherman and the corrupt mayor of his town. The film’s wide-open scenic landscape seems to play a central role—from the cliffs near the Barents Sea, to the bones of a washed-up whale, to Kolya’s family home, and finally to the run-down church used as a hangout by local boys including Kolya’s son, Roma. All of these locations outwardly demonstrate the isolation and distance felt by our family, as they are far away from the town with not many neighbors and almost swept under the rug by the town’s mayor. The whale bones could be an additional sign of decay and gradual loss felt by Kolya, or the bones could be a symbol of helplessness, particularly with his alcoholism and imprisonment later on in the film. The story revolves around Nikolay ‘Kolya’ (Aleksey Serebryakov) who lives in his ancestral home, with his wife and son. He can be found occasionally doing car repair for acquaintances, and moderately drinking early in the film. We are introduced to Kolya as the subject of an arduous legal battle to keep his property— a property he helped construct and where he is passionately rooted. The film portrays Kolya as the common man who is wrapped up in the bureaucracy of his country. To demonstrate this common man idea even further, Zvyaginstev has Kolya arrested for simply questioning a crooked police officer’s motives, which shows a definite power imbalance between authority and people. The film seems to criticize the current state of Russia’s bureaucracy and the country’s political corruption by using Kolya as an example.

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