Magazine article Variety

Satire Reveals a Nation's Monster Struggle

Magazine article Variety

Satire Reveals a Nation's Monster Struggle

Article excerpt

Satire Reveals a Nation's Monster Struggle

Leviathan

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Starring: Alexey Serebryakov. Elena Lyadova

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.

I-est you think Zvyagintsev's latest is a work of science fiction, the leviathan in question is strictly metaphorical - a concept borrowed from Thomas Hobbes' 1651 treatise of the same name. That may come as a disappointment to those who've likened the 50-year-old slow-cinema auteur to a latter-day Andrei Tarkovsky, hoping this might be the abstract metaphysical feature they'd been waiting for. And yet, there's ample cause for celebration: This is the director's most accessible and naturalistic film, using everyday characters to test how well modern-day Russia is maintaining its social contract with its citizens.

The setting is a small town on the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia, a has-been fishing community littered with the carcasses of ships and whales alike, far from Moscow and yet close enough to civilization that the locals can practically see Finland from their backyards. Come for the scenery, stay for all that's rotten beneath the surface in what amounts to an expose touching on the many challenges that face the country today: religion, politics, guns and alcohol.

No doubt, when his ancestors settled the riverside homestead on which Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) and his family - son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) and sexy second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) - still live, they never imagined a crooked mayor (Roman Madyanov) would one day seize their land. But Kolya is no pushover, enlisting his longtime lawyer friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov) all the way from Moscow to contest the mayor's claim of eminent domain. …

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