Here is a film that comes trailing clouds of controversy. The opening credits inform us that it was supported by Russia’s Ministry of Culture and it was Russia’s official entry for best foreign language film for the Academy Awards. But it is deeply critical of Russian society and the said ministers seem now to have watched the film as they have criticised its ‘existential despair’ and for being ‘anti-Russian’. An Orthodox activist has described the film as a ‘filthy libel’ and said that ‘Leviathan is evil, and there is no place for evil in the cinema.’
The story of a family living in the far north of Russia, Leviathan portrays a man battling to save his home from demolition after a corrupt local bureaucrat sets his sights on expropriating the land for his own purposes. The satire of Russian authorities, the Orthodox church and the power structure in Russia is vicious and unrelenting, and even the victims are not particularly sympathetic characters, driven to drinking vast quantities of vodka, infidelities and anguished outbursts. The screenplay is a modern reworking of the Book of Job and the Leviathan is both the State and Church, which act against the ordinary citizen, and a symbolic skeleton of a beached whale that appears towards the end of the film.
As well as being nominated for an Oscar, it has won the Golden Globe Award and London Critics’ Circle Film Award for Best Foreign Language Film and is nominated for a BAFTA in the same category. It won Best Screenplay at Cannes.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall