An immersion into the Russian seaside is a cold and often bleak experience, filled with false fronts, political and economic pressure, and of course, lots and lots of vodka. Na Zdorovie!
While there are indeed some times for celebration, Leviathan from director Andrey Zvyagintsev is a staggeringly magical and haunting cinematic exploration of one family’s hopes and struggles. It follows Kolya, a grizzled and dedicated father and husband. He has a rebellious teenage son and a second wife for which to care, as well as meddlesome corrupt police officers and far more powerful and villainous politicians.
It’s a remarkably intimate and potent drama fueled by writing and a story that is philosophically, emotionally, and mentally engaging. Kolya is a flawed figure, seen at times to be young and vibrant and others to be old and worn out. He allows moments of levity and hilarity to enter into his life all the while relationships start to crumble and burdens are increased.
Zvyagintsev opens with shots of the Barents Sea, and we quickly become acclimated to this coastal community, one that seems forever covered with gray clouds and creeping fog. When Roma runs off to be alone, he takes to a dreamlike escape: a barren, windswept boneyard abutting the sea and surrounded by mountains. Indeed alone.
Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes, Leviathan runs deeps and long, a sweeping and at times troubling dissection of contemporary Russian society and the universally burdens placed on and assumed by proud patriarchs.