Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a quiet, yet powerfully moving film. This is a film that blends the struggles of a disjointed family, with the increasing and corrupt pressure of a local Government, seamlessly. With a wealth of flawless performances, all of which take on a great array of flawed characters, Leviathan is a film that never shies away from the realities of life.
It is in a small Russian coastal town that the story of Leviathan takes place. Within this town, we follow the difficult lives of a family who are battling to keep their house from being torn down by an unrelentingly corrupt government, while also trying to keep their family from being torn apart as well. It is hoped that with the arrival of an old friend, who also happens to be a ruthlessly smart lawyer, that their problems will be solved; this however, is very much not the case, as things only worsen.
What is certainly Leviathan’s crowning achievement are its characters, but also not forgetting the sublime work of the actors that play them. For me, it is Elena Lyadova who plays the struggling wife ‘Lilya’ in the film that is the stand out. Though her character doesn’t have as much screen time as the others and she is unfortunately not given as much in the way of dialogue as the others, this is an actress who absolutely utilises the full range of her acting abilities. She says just as much with her body language or facial expressions, as most actors do with words. She is someone who pulls you into the hardship of her world and makes sure you take notice. My only complaint is that we didn’t get more of her character in the film.
Now I don’t want to disregard the performances of the other actors, this is a film that comes packaged with an incredible range of work. Aleksey Serebryakov who technically plays the main character of the film ‘Kolya’, does an incredible job of portraying the hardships of his situation. His character is taken on a journey that isn’t easy for anyone, and the convincing way in which he puts it across makes the film all the more poignant to watch.
Leviathan is a character film. It offers a deluge of diverse and broken people and backs them up with some incredible talent, but there is also an important story at the heart of it. This is a film that seems like it will play out as normal. Let’s not pretend that the story of an evil government wanting to take someone’s home away from them and build some gaudy looking thing on it, is original, but what Leviathan does, is it inject some of its own, and unique elements into this idea, to make it, its own. It’s also helped greatly by the back drop of a Russian town, which helps to offer some of the quirks that make a place that tick.
The last point I want to touch on is the subtle nature of the film making in Leviathan. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev played it simple in the film and didn’t ever go beyond what was necessary for it, and it was absolutely the best decision. Like I said before, Leviathan is a character film, there would have been no need for lavish, indulgent shots and this film stands by that. Zvyagintsev simply lets his actors do the great work, while he simply just rests the camera on them for extended periods of time. This not only allowed scenes the appropriate type to gestate, but it also made them feel more involving and convincing. Zvyagintsev stripped away a lot of the unnecessary parts and simply let his film speak for itself, and though I don’t want directors to not add their own unique flair to films, it is still nice to see a director put the characters and the story before anything else.
I will absolutely be recommending Leviathan. A powerful film that sucks you into its world, shakes you up and then spits you back out. One that plays with your expectations and is ultimately a must watch film.