Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a powerful yet remarkably subtle film which offers a glimpse into the murky world of corruption which permeates modern Russia.
Set in a remote Russian coastal town, Leviathan follows the life of Kolya, a mechanic who lives an ordinary, quiet life by the sea with his wife Lilia and teenage son Roma. That is until the unscrupulous Town Mayor (Vadim) decides that he would quite like to acquire Kolya’s property, for the benefit of the town of course. However, Kolya has worked hard for this ordinary, quiet life and is not prepared to give up without a fight. Hiring his friend Dmitri, a lawyer from Moscow, Kolya embarks on a battle against the almighty State which he is always destined to lose. Anyone hoping for a happy ending to this captivating David and Goliath story will be severely disappointed. Kolya’s battle against the State is ultimately unsuccessful and has disastrous consequences both for himself and those around him.
However, despite receiving funding from the Russian Ministry of Culture (which has since banned films that threaten ‘national unity’ from being screened in cinemas), Andrey Zvyagintsev shows his true genius and courage in the subtle yet noticeable jabs he takes at the Putin regime. Note in particular the framed photograph hanging on the wall of the Town Mayor’s office depicting a young, dashing Vladimir Putin. Or the words ‘Pussy Riot’ which coincidentally flash across a TV screen during the film. The film also subtly addresses the questionable relationship between the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church. Zvyagintsev’s willingness to tackle these issues head on is what makes this film truly remarkable.
In conclusion, Leviathan is a captivating, thrilling and powerful film which offers a rare glimpse into life in modern Russia and is not afraid to poke a few jabs at the Kremlin at the same time. It tells the story of the ongoing battle between the individual and the State. A battle in which the State always wins. However, despite this rather gloomy outcome, the ultimate message from this film is one of defiance. It serves as a warning to the Kremlin that despite the unlimited power of the State, like Kolya, the Russian people will not go down without a fight.