Review: Leviathan - Chris Frieswijk

18 Oct 2014
“Where there is force, there is power,” are the supposedly wise words the orthodox priest mentions halfway through 'Leviathan', the artful work of director Andrey Zvyagintsev.

It's these notions of force and power that appear as recurring themes throughout the story, as it revolves around Kolja, his wife Lilya, and his son Roma, who live in the visually rich environment of a seaside village in northern Russia. Kolja's family has been living there for generations, but the corrupt mayor has his eyes set on the land and tries to force them out. Kolja's lifelong friend and lawyer Dimitri comes over from Moscow to help him out.

The characters seem to go about outsmarting each other with an everyday lightheartedness, which defines the style partially. It is complemented by a strong undercurrent of insecurity and vulnerability. This seemingly contradictory overall feel is emphasized by the visuals. The images maintain a certain tranquility throughout; we see wide static shots establishing the rough but harmonious landscape, as if to say that everything exists in a perfect balance. The focus shifts on signs of decaying civilization within this landscape. Shipwrecks covered in rust and oil drums being smashed against the rocks signify corruption: the end of something that once did exist in the mentioned harmony, or was at least meant to. It is in this fashion that the characters develop throughout the story, touching upon fundamental values of life.

Because of its poetic style and well-written characters, the film allows for empathy, and succeeds in touching upon some fundamental values. Zvyagintsev managed to craft a work of art.

The Young Critics Workshop is organized in cooperation with Photogénie.