Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2014)

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leviathan

It’s so extraordinary to see a contemporary film where one is absolutely convinced at first viewing that it’s a masterpiece, comparable to the very greatest, and a critique of contemporary Russia I urge Americans to see because the US is not producing its like, however much they go on about Democracy. Here, a man who’s built his own house with his own hands on land his family’s lived in for generations is being kicked out of it by a local government politician who acts like a medieval baron. As the film unfolds, one gets a sense of the 99 per cent, not only in Russia but world-wide. Ordinary people, flawed but decent, with modest dreams of a house and children and some dignity, shunted around in a sea of bureaucracy that evokes Tsars and Stalin and Kafka and that not only has not been defeated but has successfully been exported to the west. We see a culture that drinks too much, waives guns too freely, whose external roughness does not negate the depths of feeling these characters have; the bonds they share with each other are complex, the rationale for their betrayals understandable if frightful. It’s a world where the individual is always sacrificed to political interests, generations of lives destroyed on a whim, because someone got ‘uppity’ and fought back. Poetic, with beautiful chosen images, the deadening bureaucracy sometimes evoked by the reading of dull and complex courtroom decisions quickly in a monotone voice, beautifully structured so it builds and unfolds to its inevitable conclusion. It’s a great film; one can’t shake it off; critical, poetic, real, true. Watching Leviathan, understanding and sorrow and beauty all seem to converge in one’s mind and make one want to weep.

José Arroyo

Seen at the Glauber Rocha in EICTV

San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba

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