New To Blu: Leviathan

Andrew reviews the depressing, Leviathan. 

They say when it rains it pours, but in the scathing newly released Russian sociopolitical drama Leviathan, it’s an unrelenting figurative deluge of bad tidings.  Opening on a bleak yet epic vista of frozen Russian mountains surrounding slowly drying bodies of water barely covering rotten wooden shipwrecks littering the shores, Leviathan quickly establishes Russia as a desolate, God forsaken Hell hole. 

Leviathan is the kind of jet black slow burn of a movie that reaches an enormous amount of artistic and emotional range, as deathly devastating and angering as it is humbling.  Loosely based on the true story of American domestic terrorist Marvin Heemeyer who used a bulldozer to demolish a local mayor’s town hall over a zoning dispute before turning the gun on himself, Leviathan is the kind of movie designed to infuriate the working class against injustices committed by those in power. 

Watching Leviathan unfold naturally in what feels like real time, you wouldn’t expect things to grow as dour for the characters as they do.  I was reminded at times of Lars Von Trier’s take on the Busby Berkeley inspired melodrama Dancer in the Dark where things start out ominously before the forces of the world proceed to systematically destroy our protagonist.  When we’re not being enraged by the corrupt trampling of the working class on display, the film’s cinematographer Mikhail Krichman provides a vision of Russia that is barren, decrepit and dying. 

This is not a place you want to reside in no matter how beautiful the villages and townsfolk may be, with virtually every character you come into contact with guzzling Vodka like there’s no tomorrow.  It didn’t help to know just how closely the film’s plot echoed all too real events where Leviathan was filmed involving a local businessman who shot the town mayor before killing himself over a tax dispute.  Leviathan doesn’t inhabit the violence of the region as it is completely and only that region.  And yet through all of the mire, there’s an aching beauty and profound theological wisdom to the proceedings that somehow redeems the film for the abject horrors it displays. 

Again, the film draws heavily from the Book of Job with respect to Koyla’s misfortunes as well as a formidable, striking image of a giant whale skeleton buried in a pond.  Prehistoric and immediate, Leviathan achieves an astonishing poetic grandeur through how it manages to retell one of the most important passages of the Old Testament in the impoverished modern climate of Russia.  Not easy or pleasant viewing by any means but much like the title, Leviathan is one unforgettable beast of a movie not to be missed!

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-Andrew Kotwicki