On the NYRblog, Masha Gessen writes about Leviathan, the film by director Andrey Zvyagintsev that Russia’s Oscar-nominating committee has submitted for the Academy Award for best foreign language film:
Leviathan revisits the character of the Russian man who has managed to live on his own terms. Kolya is a car mechanic—he works for himself, sets his own schedule, and reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. Kolya, who is played by Russian movie star Aleksey Serebryakov, is movie-star handsome. His wife is younger and beautiful, and his teenage son adores him. All men want to be his friend.
Kolya also has something that no other Russian has: a beautiful home that has been in his family for generations. The house is filled with light and with solid beautiful furniture, and offers something that has been at a premium as long as any Russian or his grandparents have been alive—the space to live together with dignity. But now the state, or rather the mayor of Kolya’s town, who is an embodiment of the contemporary corrupt Russian state, wants to take the house, raze it, and build something on the land. Kolya is convinced the mayor is planning “a palace,” meaning a gaudy confection with shades of medieval castle and dollhouse of the sort the Russian rich love. The reality is more sinister still.
The film is not subtle. The bad guys—the trinity of the government, the court, and the church—are pure evil. They are Leviathan itself, the Biblical monster that cannot be caught or tamed or killed. The good guys—Kolya and his wife (Elena Liadova) and their friends (Dmitri, and a married couple played by Anna Ukolova and Aleksey Rozin, the mirrors of the three friends of Job)—are good. Their love for one another, their friendship, and their ability to forgive are all genuine. And the outcome is preordained: the good guys will fight and lose.
Leviathan is now playing at Film Forum and at Lincoln Plaza in New York.
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