Leviathan (Leviafan) (2014)

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Released 26-Aug-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-The Making of Leviathan (28:13)
Interviews-Crew-Director Andrey Zvyagintsev (22:38)
Deleted Scenes-(21:25)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-More from Palace Films x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 135:35 (Case: 134)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrey Zvyagintsev
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Alexey Serebryakov
Elene Lyadova
Roman Madyanov
Vladimir Vdovitchenkov
Anna Ukolova
Sergey Pokhodaev
Aleksey Rozin


Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Philip Glass
Andrey Dergachev


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) lives with his second wife Lilya (Elene Lyadova) and teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) in a small town on the Barents Sea in Russia. Kolya’s house and vehicle repair business is on the same parcel of waterfront land his father and grandfather had owned but Vadim (Roman Madyanov), the town’s corrupt mayor, wants the land for a shady development deal and he has slapped a compulsory acquisition order on Kolya, offering compensation of about one-sixth of what the property is worth. Vadim is an old style apparatchik who has the courts, police and church on his side and he expects Kolya to cave in. But Kolya is a hot-head and determined to fight and he enlists the help of an old army friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov), now a prominent Moscow lawyer. Dmitri understands how justice works in Putin’s Russia and digs up some compromising dirt from Vadim’s past, intending to use it to broker a deal with Vadim that will at least get Kolya adequate compensation. But Vadim, with all the resources of the state apparatus behind him, has the will and the opportunity to destroy anyone who stands in his way.

     Russian writer / director Andrey Zvyagintsev is not exactly prolific in his output with only three films in over 10 years but I have watched and very much enjoyed The Return (2003) and Elena (2011); his other film The Banishment (2007) I have not seen. Both The Return and Elena were small scale dramas about family relationships, but in Leviathan (original title Leviafan) Zvyagintsev has broadened his scope to provide a tragedy drawing inspiration from the Book of Job and Thomas Hobbes, whose 1651 book Leviathan was an early work about the structure of society and legitimate government. The will of God plays a vital part in Leviathan and the tale of Job, about a man who is not prepared to accept his fate as ordained by God, is outlined to Kolya by the village priest but the reality in Putin’s Russia is that the apparatus of the state is the true leviathan, inextricable and unyielding, and that to oppose what it’s officers have ordained can only lead to tragedy.

     Leviathan is a melancholy, beautiful, hypnotic film and while the pace may seem slow and deliberate nothing on the screen is superfluous. The film commences with a section almost 6 minutes long without dialogue as the camera moves from the sea and the waves crashing against the rocks, to a glimpse of powerlines and civilization, before ending on derelict fishing boats on the shore, all accompanied by the sparse, electronic score of Philip Glass. This is economy of storytelling, showing us much of what we need to know about this environment, and other early sections of the film quickly sketch in the relationships between Lilya and Roma and Lilya and Dmitri, both of which add to the unfolding tragedy. In other scenes the camera lingers on the barren landscape of rocky hills, Kolya’s house in the twilight silhouetted against the sea, or the small town in longshot. And in the end, when Kolya’s world has been destroyed, there is a church service where the sermon is about God’s truth and justice after which the apparatchiks all leave the church to drive off in expensive foreign cars after which the camera reverses the opening sequence, moving from the people to the derelict fishing boats to the cliffs and waves and the sea.

     Leviathan presents no simplistic conclusions or, unlike The Castle, provides a happy ending or a deus ex machina to resolve an impossible situation. There is an inevitability about the result of Kolya’s fight for justice and what is happening on screen is compelling because the people and world created by Zvyagintsev is so real, the characters so flawed and normal. The film is helped by wonderful, natural performances, especially from Alexey Serebryakov, Roman Madyanov and Elene Lyadova, although even the supporting characters such as Lilya’s friend Anzhela (Anna Ukolova) and her traffic cop husband Pasha (Aleksey Rozin) are very good.

     Leviathan was nominated for the best foreign film Oscar in 2015 but lost out to the impressive film from Poland Ida. Nevertheless, it is a masterclass of filmmaking; beautiful, moving and stunning cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Leviathan is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is very good, doing justice to Mikhail Krichman’s stunning widescreen photography of the bleak and barren landscape. It is sharp and detailed and colours are natural but muted, reflecting the light of northern Russia and the Barents Sea. Blacks are solid throughout and shadow detail good. Brightness and contrast were consistent, skin tones natural.

     I did not see any marks or artefacts although the end titles shimmer and would be difficult to read, even if you can read Russian script.

    The white English subtitles were easy to read and error free, but cannot be removed for Russian speakers.

     The layer chance resulted in a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

     This is a film with a lot of silences when there was no music or ambient sound. Dialogue was easy to hear and the effects, when present, had depth such as the sharp gunshots or car engines. There were some directional effects such as cars passing or a thrown glass. The sub-woofer was mostly silent except for the crashing of waves upon the rocks.

     The sparse score by Philip Glass and Andrey Dergachev was very effective.

     Lip synchronisation occasionally seemed slightly out.

     The audio is appropriate to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The Making of Leviathan (28:13)

     This featurette consists of raw, unstructured on set footage without any linking text or narration. It shows some of writer / director Zvyagintsev’s working methods, accidents on set, building the whales’ skeleton and discussions about takes. Interesting in places, but too long to maintain interest.

Interview with Andrey Zvyagintsev (22:38)

     Zvyagintsev answers questions in Russian (yellow subtitles) from an unseen and unheard interviewer and there are some sections of film footage. He speaks about art, the influences upon the film including the Book of Job and Thomas Hobbes, his intentions, the characters, cast, justice, the locations and landscapes of the film, the Russian social order. As an introduction to Leviathan this interview provides some good insights.

Deleted Scenes (21:25)

     Seventeen alternative and extended scenes, with a few deleted scenes and a couple a stuff-ups. If you have watched the film it is easy to see where they fit as they are in film sequence order. Worth a look.

Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

More from Palace Films

     Trailers for Living is Easy (With Eyes Closed) (1:50), In Bloom (2:07), Still Life (2:13) and Elena (1:53).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US release of Leviathan adds a French dub; I cannot find any details of extras. The Region B UK Blu-ray has the same extras as our DVD so I do not imagine the Region 2 UK DVD would have any more. Buy local.

Summary

     With Leviathan Russian writer / director Andrey Zvyagintsev draws on the Bible and Thomas Hobbes among his inspirations for a beautifully written, tragic film about God and justice in Putin’s Russia. Leviathan is a masterclass of filmmaking, a stunning film and a must see for anyone even remotely interested in quality World cinema.

     The video and audio are good, the extras generally worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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