|'The characters circle around elements of personal knowledge, past crimes and power, like insignificant bubbles heading for the plug hole'|
An intelligent Drama, which blends elements of Catch-22 alike farce, with overt realism in the face of obviously balmy Russian politics, Leviathan also manages to tell a very human story of the impact of corruption and small town grudges.
Introduced to us on the verge of losing his house so that local politician Vadim (Roman Madyanov) can build what is described as a 'palace', Nikolay (Aleksey Serebryakov) and wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) bring in their friend and Nikolay's ex-army colleague Dmitriy (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to assist. Now a lawyer in Moscow, Dmitriy and Nikolay set about attempting to combat the corruption and executive power granted to the local 'authority'.
What follows in Andrey Zvyagintsev's film is a great deal of subtlety, during which you increasingly get the impression of just how rotten the state of Russia may be. Dmitriy lets on to Nikolay early on that he holds some personal sway over Vadim, thus becoming a part of the shady dealings which pervade the film and integrate political judgements with personal knowledge, past crimes and power.
The characters circle around those elements like insignificant bubbles heading for the plug hole. A revelation at the beginning of the third act switches the viewpoint much more towards Lilya as protagonist, with Nikolay increasingly looking like a raving alcoholic, though Zvyagintsev perhaps never quite gets to grips with the character and, at times, it feels as though she takes a great deal of blame for events on show.
The human element meanwhile is taken up by Nikolay's son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev), who watches the horror of the narrative unfold with increasingly old-looking childlike eyes. A scene close to the finale featuring Roma and local policeman Pasha (Aleksey Rozin) is heartbreaking.
The success of the film is that, come the finale, you can't quite tell how events have unfolded the way that they have, the shady background dealings and superior knowledge holding sway over earthly outcomes. The biblical reference in the title, relayed to Nikolay through parable by the local priest, emphasises the need to trust your fates to God and accept the events that are coming your way. In the end every character arguably does that, though you suspect it is not the message being preached by a subversive Russian director.