Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leviathan (Russia 2014)

While the dismal tone of Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan is certainly right, the film has flaws: a contrived melodramatic scenario, and the black & white goodies vs baddies narrative lacks subtlety.

Two narrative tricks of expecting thugs rather than the wife to enter the hotel room of the lawyer, and the conceit of the scene at the "pic-nic" where we expect the son to have fallen down the ravine, are too obvious, and the portrayal of the Russian Church as some darkly sinister overlord is a tad propaganda-like. The protagonists are hardly saints and bring about a lot of their own grief.

These flaws aside it is powerful cinema, and the acting is fine. The whale symbolism is subtle if overt, but better still is the rapacious maw of the wrecking machine seen from inside the house.

While the allegory - as Zvyagintsev has said in an interview - has universal relevance, his anger is directed squarely at Russia.  We only need look at our "democracies" and the leviathan bureaucracies that govern and mostly frustrate our lives, to appreciate the parallels.