Leviathan (‘Leviafan’)

DRAMA; 2hr 21min (Russian with subtitles)

STARRING: Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov

Monstered: Serebryakov

In biblical times, a leviathan represented a crocodile, a whale or the Devil himself. The term also stands for the intractable authority of a powerful organisation. For Kolya (Serebryakov), the angry man under fire in director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s punishing drama, that power lies with low-down mayor Vadim (Madyanov), who is about to demolish the house that Kolya built and in which he lives with his son, Romka (Sergey Pokhodaev), and his sullen second wife, Lilya (Lyadova). Kolya is instinctual; he works with his hands, not his head. It falls to a visiting friend, Moscow lawyer Dmitry (Vdovichenkov), to paper-chase, calmly crossing swords with Vadim in an effort to undermine him.


The Russian seaside setting, while bleakly pretty, is otherwise cheerless and cold. Everyone chugs vodka, for numbness, warmth or both. From these raw and unpromising materials, Zvyagintsev (Elena) weaves a crazy quilt blackly laced with treachery, deceit and violence. As always, the vulnerable will suffer but nobody escapes a final judgment: the forces that confront them are in each of them, as well.