Lauded Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return) won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes for this painterly, primordial tale about a proud patriarch fighting to protect his family home from a corrupt local official.
Marking a full decade since his 2003 debut, The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev's magnum opus, Leviathan, premiered at this year's Cannes to unanimous acclaim, winning the Best Screenplay award and establishing him as a true master of cinema.
With the film's magisterial opening — the coastal landscape of the Barents Sea, set to the clarion call of Philip Glass's symphonic score — Zvyagintsev sets the stage for a story in which human intrigues are indistinguishable from forces of nature
In a small seaside town, weather-beaten patriarch Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) lives with his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhadaev) and second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova). Their idyllic homestead harbours deep-rooted familial resentments that are aggravated by the aggressions of the local mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov), a drunken, corrupt bureaucrat set on grabbing their land for himself. When Kolya calls in his lawyer friend Dima (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov) from Moscow, this defensive tactic triggers a series of dramatic events.
In the hands of Zvyagintsev and co-writer Oleg Negin (previous collaborators on the 2011 Festival selection Elena), the premise expands from a rural-scale morality play to a philosophical examination of contemporary Russian society. Zvyagintsev and his regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman give a painterly, meditative rendering to this tale whose near-primordial themes have their roots in Thomas Hobbes and the Book of Job.
Zvyagintsev has already been called a successor to Tarkovsky; with Leviathan he forges ahead and stakes out a cinematic territory of his own, analyzing the human (and, implicitly, Russian) spirit with an immediacy and urgency that will bear repeated viewings for decades to come.