Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Leviathan won the Official Competition
"The performances are powerful, unforgettable, like ice in the wind"

East European cinema was known for its unflinching realism in the dark days of Soviet influence. Since the Berlin Wall came down and the ideals of freedom leaked into the remnants of communist culture, films tended towards the commercial. Capitalism replaced the grit in the oyster with a cultured pearl.

Not this time.

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When the mayor of a small town, somewhere in the bleeding heartland of Russia's vast, forgotten shoreline, where the only industry is fishing and the only release vodka, decides he wants to build "a palace" on the site, presently owned and occupied by Nikolay (Aleksey Serebryakov) and his family, he assumes the matter will be nodded through without a hitch.

The mayor (Roman Madyanov) is a bully who has accumulated wealth with the help of mafia style tactics. He does not appreciate criticism and expects absolute loyalty from his acolytes (staff), especially when he gets drunk, which is most days before lunch.

Nikolay contacts Dmitry (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), his best friend from school, now a successful Moscow lawyer. The contrast between them is striking, the emotional Nikolay who resorts to vodka when the going gets tough and Dmitry who determines everything on the basis of the law.

The mayor has never had to deal with someone like Dmitry, who is not averse to blackmail, and Nikolay's beautiful wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) finds his company irresistible.

The film covers the waterfront and everything in between, the people of the town, friends and children alike. This is a community in a harsh, chilling environment, dominated by an undemocratic system, desperate, illegal and on its own. Only the church and the bottle offer hope. And Dmitry. For a moment.

The performances are powerful, unforgettable, like ice in the wind. The plot rages against a storm of protest, howling for justice and passion. Night falls, The days pass. Winter closes in.

If Stalin was still breathing, writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev would be on his way to the Gulag by now and the film incinerated. It says something about modern Russia that such a portrait of corruption and despair has been allowed out.

Reviewed on: 08 Nov 2014
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Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Writer: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Starring: Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov, Anna Ukolova, Kristina Pakarina, Sergey Pokhodaev, Aleksey Rozin, Lesya Kudryashova, Aleksey Pavlov, Alim Bidnenko

Year: 2014

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Russia

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