Blu-Ray Review: Cannes Winner “Leviathan” Unearths Nightmarish Drama

Sergey Pokhodaev as Roma
Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

 

Though it was shot in Teriberka, a small coastal town in Russia, Leviathan’s tale is a universal one, as a person’s struggles against a corrupt bureaucracy is a heartbreaking tale that transcends time and weather. Winner for Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, the drama is now out on Blu-ray and DVD.

Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya
Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Kolya (Akeksey Serebryakov) is a temperamental mechanic who, along with his second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadov) and their son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev), live in a modest, somewhat ramshackle domicile. The property’s location, however, is key. Living near the water, with seaside cliffs and barren lands as far as the eye could see, Kolya is basically sitting on a gold mine.

Elena Liadova as Lilya Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Elena Liadova as Lilya
Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The town’s corrupt mayor (Roman Madianov), with several thugs at his beck and call and the local law enforcement under his thumb, is determined to buy Kolya’s property at an unfair purchasing price. When Kolya enlists old Army buddy Dmitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to serve as his lawyer and eventually strong arm the mayor, Kolya’s predicament actually worsens to a devastatingly tragic degree.

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev departs from the traditional hero’s journey narrative, as Kolya is a temperamental alcoholic who is all talk and bluster, and even during his inevitable descent our sympathies are attached to the plight and rather the man himself.

While displaying the overpowering grip of a corrupt government, the feature also takes a look at religion’s place in society. As expressed during a sermon conducted by the town’s priest, God is watching over everyone, and he who is filled with Jesus Christ’s spirit lives in the truth. Though the message is inspiring, it’s also not surprising that one of the church’s biggest benefactors is the town mayor.

The film’s moniker comes from the book of Job, chapter 41, which reads “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its rope/Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?” As the narrative progresses, each person in this small town is burdened with their own challenges to an almost paralyzing effect. Thus,”Leviathan” doesn’t simply refer to the gargantuan powers of Church and State .

Rather, Father Time is the ultimate conqueror, as witnessed by the whale skeleton and abandoned ships that waste away on these Russian shores. Visually captivating while delivering a punch to the guts narrative, Leviathan is captivating to the core.

Special Features include:

  1. The Making of Leviathan (29:27) – This isn’t a cookie cutter featurette, as the segment takes an in-depth, warts and all look at director Andrey Zvyagintsev as he prepares for various scenes during production.
  2. Deleted Scenes (22:18) – Most of these sequences are alternate versions of scenes that ended up in the final cut. One particular scene fleshes out a pivotal interaction between Dmitriy and Lilya (two uneaten plates of fruit compote says a lot about their situation, without giving too much away!), and another short moment occurs on a train, as a young girl offers Dmitriy a bit of advice. Another scene should have been part of some blooper reel, as actress Elena Lyadov accidentally backs her vehicle into another car.
  3. Also included is commentary with Zvyagintsev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky and a TIFF  Q&A with Rodnyansky (actor Akeksey Serebryakov was also on hand to introduce the film).
Leviathan - Sony Pictures Classics
Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya – Photo by Anna Matveeva, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Leviathan (141 minutes, R), which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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