Friday, August 08, 2014


Northern Russia looks bleak. A treeless, windswept, rocky waste land, fringed by a restless sea. Unpainted wooden or cracked concrete buildings look like they have seen no maintenance since Brezhnev was in charge. A fitting stage for a Russian tragedy. When faced with a powerful adversary: do you stand up for your rights and fight back or lick your wounds and accept your losses? That is the question at the heart of Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan.

Kolia runs an auto-repair shop from his home on the outskirts of a coast village. The local government has claimed the land and offered a fraction of what Kolia thinks it is worth. Kolia brings in a old army friend, now a Moscow lawyer, to help in the case. Like traditional tragedy, early success is followed by set-back and suffering. Aristotle's theory is that in tragedy the suffering must be as a result of a mistake, but in Leviathan we are left to decide if Kolia and his family made mistakes or if failure is inevitable if you take on "the system" (in this case the Russian government). More than one character says that taking on the government is a mistake.

The Film Festival program links the film's title to Thomas Hobbes book on government: Leviathan and the film's theme to the most famous quote from the book "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". But this miss-uses the quote which refers to life in a world without society and government. A priest in the film quotes from Job 41: "Can you pull in the leviathan with a fish hook or tie down his tongue with a rope?" and then goes onto use the story of Job to illustrate the futility of fighting something more powerful than yourself.

The answer to every problem in Russia is vodka (it is also the way to celebrate success). The ability to act as if drunk was a requirement of almost all the actors in Leviathan.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

No comments:

Post a Comment