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DVD Review by Diane McCurdy A Dreary Leviathan

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DVD Review by Diane McCurdy 

A Dreary Leviathan 

by Diane McCurdy

Leviathan was Russia’s entry into this year’s Oscar race for best foreign film. It has biblical overtones and it suggests some of the tenets of the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. It did not make the Russian Minister of culture very happy and not many Russians have seen it despite wide acceptance outside of that country. It is now available on DVD. Leviathan’s publicity posters feature the bleached bones of some mammoth animal probably a whale. It is a stark image that serves as a metaphor and sets the tone for what is to follow.

The protagonist, Kolya, is a mechanic who is beset with the tribulations of Job. He lives by a solitary stretch of coastline that is both starkly rugged and majestic. He has a younger sylph-like wife and a typically sullen teen age son from a previous relationship. His home is cluttered but comfortable with picture windows that face the sea. The severity of the landscape matches the coarseness and sometimes abrupt actions of the characters. The mayor wants Kolya’s property for development and is willing to do almost anything to obtain it. In order to counter the unreasonable offers of the mayor, Kolya enlists the aid of an old friend, a lawyer, from Moscow. The mayor retreats and strategizes. He manipulates the law as well as the church to be on his side. Things quickly spiral out of control as Kolya’s wife looks longingly at the lawyer and the priest delivers hypocritical sermons. Calamity turns to chaos and finally to catastrophe. Fists and guns and general violence ensues. Portraits of Putin and allusions to the dissident rock group “Pussy Riot” make this descent into misery very contemporary. The cinematography reinforces the narrative. The ocean and its shoreline are naturally photogenic but can be both lovely and lethal and the waves that alternately caress and whip the beach are reminders of that.

At two hours and twenty-one minutes of vodka-drenched anguish, Leviathan is depressing and cheerless. Its only redeeming quality is its social critique. It is business as usual in Russia whether it is under the domain of the Czar, Josef Stalin or former KGB spy, Vladimir Putin.