On the surface, Andrei Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature, Leviathan, is about how a dispute over land in a remote Russian township becomes a stone that casts cataclysmic ripples through a family and a community. But there are much greater monsters of the deep moving under the surface of this powerful, craftily allusive and elusive film. Simultaneously a modern essay on suffering, an open-ended thriller, and a black social comedy, it is most importantly of all a thinly veiled political parable drenched in bitter irony that takes aim against the corrupt, corrosive regime of Vladimir Putin.
In the Bible, Leviathan is a mighty sea serpent and sometimes an incarnation of Satan, an awe-inducing creature of unfathomable might. In the film, the bones of a beached whale lie on the Barents Sea beach where the action takes place, and at one key moment, the spotting of real live whale in the sea becomes an augur of death. It’s also, adding another gauzy palimpsest of irony, a reference to Thomas Hobbes’ book “Leviathan” in which the titular creature stands for the state. In Hobbes’ ideal world, the state is ruled by an absolute sovereign whose rule is undiluted by such irritating notions like separation of powers, free speech and religious tolerance. Drill down deep enough and just about every detail in the film feels freighted with deeper meaning.
Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter
Anna Ukolova Alexey Rozin
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