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Cannes Film Festival 2014

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan - a monster of a film on family, corruption, betrayal and God

Alexei Serebryakov in Leviathan by Andrey Zvyagintsev.
Alexei Serebryakov in Leviathan by Andrey Zvyagintsev. pyramidefilms

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is as full of biblical references as its title suggests. The Russian film is a loose adaptation of the Old Testament story of Job.

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In case we don’t get it, the story of Job is told briefly by one of the characters and the image of a whale skeleton lying ensconced on the shore of the Barents Sea gives a sense of desolation.

Dossier: Cannes Film Festival 2014

As in his film The Return, Zvyagintsev proves that he has an eye for natural beauty.

He also has an eye for human baseness.

In Leviathan that baseness takes the form of a corrupt yet God-fearing politician, played by Roman Madyanov.

The spineless actions of his fearful apostles (the superficial judiciary as pharasees? The police officer “friend” as Judas?) help him to buy what he is apparently ready to kill for – holy redemption.

The story of Job is transposed into the Russian Orthodox Church as a brand and a hero (Alexei Serebryakov). whose independence and love for his family and his piece of native land lead to his fall from grace.

Leviathan, supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture, is a monster of a film in its density of ideas on family relations, trust, betrayal, friendship, power, corruption, religion and so on.

The space made for very occasional comic relief and the rapid tie-up ending, compensate for some long stretches and the whole is borne along by music by Philip Glass and the mystery of the cold, strong waves.

 

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