Andrey Zvyagintsev’s curiously titled Leviathan is a tragic and somber indictment of high-handedness and corruption borne out of political authority, and the ensuing plight of common men at the receiving end of the power structure. Moreover, the film’s central plot, viz. forcible acquisition of a person’s land making use of state machinery for the ostensible purpose of ‘development’, is sure to strike a universal chord. The tale revolves around the precarious situation faced by Kolia (Alexei Serebriakov), a self-employed resident of a small coastal town, whose piece of land the unscrupulous and corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov) is trying to forcibly purchase on a pittance. Being an obstinate hot-head he refuses to bow down to the political and administrative pressure, and instead decides to fight back with the help of his Moscow-based lawyer friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov). As can be anticipated, he loses on all counts as he’s literally crushed by the judicial and extra-judicial means employed for the purpose. His ravishing second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova), who’s embroiled in an extra-marital affair with Dmitri, and his teenaged son (Sergey Pokhodaev) who’s perpetually angry at his step-mom, made for delicate familial dynamics, and its inevitable collapse is hastened by the external forces thrust upon them. The breathtaking natural beauty of the place was endowed with an ominous tone that competently evoked the rich but sparse atmosphere and Biblical undertones. The opening and closing scenes, where the unjust but anticipated rulings of the court are read in a drone-like voice similar to disclaimers at the end of commercials on investment products, cemented the film’s bleak socio-political commentary with a dose of black humour.
Director: Andrei Zvyagnistev
Genre: Drama/Political Drama