Run time: 140mins

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Cast: Aleksey Serebryakov Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov, Sergey Pokhodaev


Synopsis: The film follows Nikolai who makes his living through the land and a small auto-repair shop. When his livelihood comes under threat from Vadim, the town mayor, Nikolai recruits his old Moscow friend Dmitriy, a successful and respected lawyer, to help him fight back against the corrupt local government.

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This magnificent epic Russian drama, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev [Elena (2011), The Banishment (2007), The Return (2003)] is set on a peninsula by the Barents Sea and tells the story of an ordinary family man Nikolai (Aleksey Serebryakov) who struggles against a corrupt mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov) who wants his piece of land, home and business. The screenplay by Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, which won the award for Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival this year, is a modern re-working of the Book of Job and loosely based on Heinrich von Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas

Leviathan producer Alexander Rodnyansky has said: “It deals with some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia, while never becoming an artist’s sermon or a public statement; it is a story of love and tragedy experienced by ordinary people.”

With a large cast of characters – unusual for Zvyagintsev – the film was shot on location in the town of Kirovsk, near Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula.  Stunning cinematography from Mikhail Krichman vividly captures the local atmosphere as it pans the detritus of a former fishing community, with the skeleton of a massive beached whale and decaying fishing boats where Nikolai’s ancestral home and garage sit in prime position.

Nikolai has enlisted a former Army friend – now a smart Moscow lawyer – Dmitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to fight back against the compulsory purchase. But after a contrary court verdict, read by a court official at breakneck speed, events mean that the lawyer’s arrival brings more misfortune to Nikolai’s second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev).

This is a haunting and thought provoking film about why bad things happen to good people, highlighting corruption and betrayal, with stunning visual imagery, a superb ensemble cast and a fluid Philip Glass score echoing the film’s changing moods.

Images courtesy of Curzon Film World