Peculiarly, pathos has proven to be a more reliable element …
There are three things you don’t discuss at a dinner table: politics, religion, and your unending suffering at the hands of those two beasts. Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan manages to bring all three of those into a modern retelling of Job by way of Thomas Hobbes. Taking influence from such classic texts puts Zvyagintsev in the realm of other Russian storytellers known for grand-scale ambitions: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tarkovsky. Luckily, his cultural inheritance is well-utilized — the title implying a mammoth tale from a political beast encapsulates a present-day Russia dominated by systems out of its citizens’ control.
Shot using multiple unmanned digital cameras on an Atlantic Ocean fishing trawler, Leviathan plunges us directly into the ship’s chaotic machinery, revealing a dissonant, alien world. The latest collaborative work from anthropologists and filmmakers, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, is a profoundly original documentary and a staggering, hallucinatory piece of cinema. There is no narration and no interviews; from the outset, we are thrust unaided and disorientated into the cacophony, bombarded with anarchic point-of-view shots and haunting, discordant sounds.
We’re cast right into the clanging of metal and the harsh winds of the North Atlantic. Though ostensibly advertised as an immersive look into the commercial fishing industry, our viewing lens is at first murky and dim. This sort of visceral thrust is at once foreign and familiar, a transporting non-linear journey keen on the laborious modes of living at sea.