Thursday, April 02, 2015
Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan is a punch in the gut to anyone who has even the slightest romantic notion about Russia or its people. This prize-winning drama (Best Screenplay at Cannes, Golden Globe, and Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film) is scathing about the relationship between ordinary Russians like Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) and structures of power. Kolya's family home is about to be torn down to suit the corrupt Mayor of the coastal village where the the story takes place. That Mayor (Roman Madyanov) is open to be worked by anyone, including the Church, as long as there's something in it for him. The arrival of Kolya's lawyer (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) signals a chance for some justice, but this is a story of both personal and political tragedy and soon Kolya's situation is even worse. The most memorable performance in Leviathan comes from Elena Lyadova as Kolya's wife Lilya, a woman both exhilarated and terrified by the possibilities life opens up to her. Zvyagintsev uses his setting well; there's a feeling of the characters (and the country) having barely escaped an earlier, rougher time but still being on the edge of wildness. Kolya's fate seems almost preordained, but the irony and hypocrisy on display in the film's last scene is no less devastating for the sense that it couldn't happen any other way. Leviathan is an important work, and I'd very much like to discover Zvyagintsev's earlier films.