Moving from vast vistas of Russia’s frozen North into an isolated parable of one man, ex-soldier and handyman Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) as he defends the home he built with his own hands from the clutches of the local, corrupt and alcoholic mayor, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is a parable of one man trying to catch a whale. Kolya has enlisted the help of his army buddy Dima (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), now a well suited lawyer from Moscow, but still, the scales are tipped firmly against them with the police, prosecutors and courts all working in cahoots with the administration. As one man stands up against corruption, contemporary details pierce through – such as the portrait of Putin staring down over the mayor’s shoulder and the flash of Pussy Riot glimpsed on a TV. And yet the Church too is complicit. And sadly, man is no match for this oligarchic machine, as human foibles, such as desire for a best friend’s wife or the lack of courage to withstand intimidation, prevent these men from seeing justice done. It being Russia, Leviathan‘s bleak ending is almost a foregone conclusion. And while a glimmer of hope or vicarious catharsis in this Russian gloom is severely missed, Leviathan is an apt political reminder of the powerlessness of individual action, as man rails against the machine.
Leviathan is showing on Oct 14th & 17th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival