Leviathan

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

“Leviathan” (2014)

In a Russian coastal town, Kolya ( Aleksey Serebryakov) has been told that his house will be torn down to make way for some sort of official town development. Kolya, married to Lilya (Elena Lyadova), has vowed not to go down without a fight. Kolya built the house with his own two hands and uses the garage on the grounds to repair cars for a living. He is convinced that the mayor of the town, Vadim (Roman Madyanov) has plans to build a lavish house on the very property that Kolya’s house stands on. The big problem is the mayor controls the town and especially its police force.

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Leviathan

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

To help fight the local government, Kolya asks an old army buddy, Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a big time Moscow lawyer, to come down and help him. Dmitri is convinced that he can get the house back because he has dirt on the Mayor that he can use against him if they lose in court. The big question is can the big-city lawyer come into the small town controlled by a power-mad mayor and win against the corrupt political machine?

This film was nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award, and it’s worthy of the nomination. It’s a tense film, reminiscent of a mob film by Scorsese, with plenty of suspense and character depth. There is a constant feeling of doom and gloom, as it’s inevitable that failure and possible death is in the cards.

Leviathan

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman does an incredible job of creating the mood for the film. The film is filled with shot after shot of a grey coast littered with skeletons of beached boats, rusting away as the years go by. You can feel the desperation as the camera moves from scene to scene, as Kolya’s life slowly unravels before our eyes.

Director Andrey Zuyagintsev, who co-wrote the script with Oleg Negin, gets some rich and deep performances from his cast. One of my favorite scenes from the film is very early in the film, where Kolya and Dmitri are in the courtroom to hear the dreaded verdict of the case adjust Kolya. In a scene that takes at least three minutes, a judge, in a very rapid pattern, recites all the particulars of the case, seemly never taking a breath. As the case is read, and it’s brutally sure that they are ruling against Kolya, he is visually upset. Steam seems to become off his forehead, and Dmitri keeps casting worried looks that his friend is going to explode. From this scene, it is very apparent that the bureaucracy of the government is going to win out, and Kolya chances are doomed. The government is too big, and the Mayor has just too much power.

Leviathan

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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Aleksey Serebryakov, as the fiery Kolya, gives one of the better performances of the film. He runs the gamut of emotions in this film. To the feeling of hope and brotherhood, when his savior shows up, to utter desperation when he realizes that he will never win, and his life just might be over, a failure in front of his wife and kid. Vladimir Vdovichenkov, as the cocksure, high-powered lawyer Dmitri, who just might be in over his head in this backwater of corruption and greed, is perfect in his role. As soon as he walks in the door of Kolya’s home, you feel the attraction between his character and that of Lilya.

Leviathan

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

From the start, we know that there is something between the two, and they pull it off beautifully. Elena Lyadova, playing the troubled Liiya, is asked to do the most complex role of the three main characters. Lyadova, shows everything through her face and her body language, as she tries to stand by her husband and support him in this time of trouble, only to be drawn to the good-looking Dmitri. Through her actions, we surmise that theirs is a history between Lilya and Dmitri. It’s as if the forces that are bringing down Kolya, have put the two former lovers together to bring him further pain.

“Leviathan” is a film about people fighting bureaucracy, and though they may be determined, their fate is already sealed, just like the beached boats on the coast. If they aren’t destined to be destroyed by the waves, they will surely rust to nothing over time.   My Rating: Full Price

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“Leviathan” Website

“Leviathan” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

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