Russia is no stranger to the Academy Awards, with plenty of nominations and wins all around. This year, “Leviathan” tells the story of a family, all dealing with their own challenges, yet intertwining in the sense that their actions all effect one another. Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov), a husband and father, is dealing with a court ruling forcing him to sell his family’s land overlooking a peninsula by the Barents Sea. The corrupt governor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov), is the one forcing his hand, in order to tear down the existing house and build an establishment of some kind (which actually offers an extremely impressive twist by the end of the film). Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), one of Kolya’s old army friends turned lawyer, shows up to help Kolya with his legal battle and even goes as far as to blackmail Vadim with issues from his past. But Dmitri is hiding something from Kolya as well.
The rest of the family includes Kolya’s son from a previous marriage, Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) who is going through the motions of being a rebellious teen, which includes hanging out in an abandoned church drinking with his friends around a bonfire and talking back to his stepmother, Lilia (Elena Lyadova). Lilia has the face of someone ill-content with her predicament, hoping that Kolya decides to move them to the city once the deals are done. Lilia, too, however, is hiding something from Kolya that all leads to the more dramatic elements of the film.
“Leviathan” is an engaging drama from start to finish. But the film you start off with, ala a man fighting to keep his land, is not the film you end up with. Unabashed at showing the dirty nature of the world, shining a light on the underbelly of relationships, and willing to let the underdog get dragged through the dirt, the film, like many Best Foreign Language Features before it, has the dark nature elements to win it an Academy Award. Because often is the case that that dark nature leads to rich and meaningful prose that plays wonderfully and awe-inspiring on screen.
What’s its competition? With tons of groundswell, including the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Feature, “Leviathan” actually stands pretty close to the top of the pack. “Tangerines” and “Timbuktu” have hardly even been talked about and “Wild Tales” has much less going for it, that the black-and-white drama “Ida” is really the only competition for “Leviathan,” making this a two film race. As I have not seen “Ida” yet, I will hold my opinions to myself, but “Leviathan” does set the bar high and already makes a pretty good case as to why it should bring another Academy Award win to Russia.
// Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky // Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev //
// Dated Viewed: Saturday, January 31st, 2015 // Laemmle Playhouse // 28 films – 23 days //