Zvyagintsev crafts the true colors of Archbishops acting as criminals minding their own business both literally and figuratively.
“Leviathan” is a 2014 movie by one of the brightest and bravest Russian directors Andrey Zvyagintsev. He is the best in his generation of filmmakers, never afraid, always loud and clear. It takes a lot of courage to expose the deepest, darkest, dirtiest of today’s Russia. Representing a government deeply immersed in the swamp of corruption and the church with nothing left in common with Christianity has nothing to do with the doctrine of Jesus and the telling of the New Testament.
The skeleton of Leviathan remains on the shore untouched and rotten. Nobody is touching the terrible skeleton in fear of entirely collapsing—a perfect metaphor from Zvyagintsev to the modern days’ church.
Zvyagintsev masterfully crafted the current look of modern Russia. The main characters’ life is reminiscent of the biblical character Job and the story of Naboth’s vineyard. “Leviathan” is a story of the ordinary people’s struggle versus money, corruption, government, and church empowered by the corrupted officials. Zvyagintsev deals with the critical social and political issues of contemporary Russia. In the Old Testament, Leviathan appears as a multi-headed serpent killed by God and given food to the Hebrews in the wilderness. However, Leviathan is still alive, representing a monster created in the name of God, talking and acting in the name of Jesus. Leviathan is referenced in the book of Job, and it represents an allegory that is a force that plunges the population of rural Russia into a mass of corruption, injustice, and utter hopelessness.
The story is set in the fictional town of Pribrezhny, where a series of tragic events occur around a local car mechanic, Kolya, and his family. First, the city’s corrupted mayor has decided to expropriate the land on which Kolya’s house has been built. Then, the mayor says he wants to make a telecommunications mast on Kolya’s land and offers him an undervalued sum for compensation. Still, Kolya believes his actual plans include building a villa for himself. Kolya knows this war is already lost, but still, he asks for help from his old friend, a successful lawyer in Moscow.
Both Kolya and the audience see the swamp of corruption, a swamp that tears everything up throughout the movie. The director sets an environment where it is tough to see the bright beam of the future. Zvgyagintsev, in the plainest manner, tells the story of modern Russia. With masterful cinematography, lighting, and the score by Philip Glass, the director shows the audience the despair in the synthesis of corruption.
“All power is from God, where there’s power there is might,” says the Archbishop of the city and encourages the mayor to expropriate Kolya’s land. In “Leviathan,” Archbishops talk in the name of God and approve tyranny. Those who have ever lived in the post-Soviet countries know for sure that the narrative told by Zvyagintsev is not an exaggeration. The Oscar-nominated director is one of the few exceptions, which is not afraid to expose the hidden truth. The only criticism that “Leviathan” has faced was from Russia’s Minister of Culture. Meanwhile, many have praised the movie in Russia and have mentioned that it raised important questions about the country’s state.
Most film critics refer to the film as a masterpiece and emphasize the unique style of the genius that is Andrey Zvyagintsev. However, “Leviathan” is not just a film of political allusions and allegories – it is an impressive masterpiece about human tragedies. A gruesome seaside town, where the skeleton of Leviathan rests on the shore and defines the life of the locals.
The movie won a Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and film critics thought the Oscar would go to the Russian director in the same category. Still, that year the Polish film director Pawel Pawlikowski won with his movie “Ida.” However, not winning the Oscar doesn’t diminish “Leviathan” and Zvyagintsev at all, as it is one of the most profound and, without a doubt, one of the most thought-provoking movies of the 21st century.