Critics are going crazy for Russian helmer Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest, “Leviathan,” which played in competition at Cannes and now looks to be a serious contender for the prized Palme d’Or. Zvyagintsev knocked it out of the park with 2011’s meditation on one family’s legacy of crime, “Elena,” and this new film again returns to the terrain of social critique, but by loosely retelling the Book of Job.
The 140-minute epic follows a small-town mechanic (Alexei Serebriakov) who becomes embroiled in a legal dispute with the local mayor — an ordeal that could lose him his house and surrounding property — and a serious crisis of faith sets in.
No stateside distributor yet, but you can bet they’re clamoring. Review roundup, below.
Huge monsters of the deep move under the surface of this
powerful, craftily allusive and elusive film, the director’s best and most
courageous so far.
Andrei Zvyagintsev’s latest is a very strong contender for
the Palme d’Or – a mix of Hobbes, Chekhov and the Bible, and full of
extraordinary images and magnificent symmetry… A new Russian masterpiece.
In “Leviathan,” which director Andrey Zvyagintsev has
described as a loose retelling of the Book of Job, an ordinary man must wrestle
with his faith not in God but in the Russian state — an epic struggle against a
monster with many faces possessed of the capacity to bend the law to suit its
own appetites. Resistance is futile, as they say, and yet this stunning
satire’s embattled patriarch valiantly perseveres for the sake of his family,
even as it crumbles around him. Debuting in competition at Cannes, this
engrossing, arthouse-bound opus spans a meaty 142 minutes and unfolds with the
heft of a 1,000-page novel.
From the two boys at the mercy of their demanding father in
“The Return,” to the elderly working class woman in “Elena”
driven to crime for the sake of her son’s finances, Zvyagintsev has assailed
Russian society from the inside out. But none of his preceding features reaches
the heights of dark, probing inquiry on display in his beautifully layered epic
“Leviathan,” a tragedy of biblical proportions in which fear and
disillusionment are more central than the plot itself, and only the heartless
people in power can find gratification.
If there was ever any doubt as to Zvyagintsev’s position as
one of world cinema’s foremost auteurs, it’s put to rest here. His filmmaking
has always been superb, but he’s never taken on the state of his nation in the
way he does here. And that makes “Leviathan” not just masterful but
also hugely important.
Returning to Cannes this year (Elena was in the Un Certain
Regard strand in 2011), Zvyagintsev’s latest is a powerful and compelling
retelling of the biblical Book of Job, transplanted to a small town in Russia.
Kolia (Alexei Serebriakov) is a mechanic who’s gotten himself mixed up in a
legal dispute with the town’s powerful major, which could see him lose his
house and his land. Kolia is no angel, however; he’s a veritable hothead who
likes his vodka, is quick to lash out at others and constantly complains about
his perceived lot in life.