Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a powerful film about corruption and decay in contemporary Russia.
Kolia (Alexei Serebriakov) lives in a run-down town on Russia’s Arctic coast with his wife, Lilya (Elena Lyadova), and his son, Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev). The property his house stands on is coveted by the town’s corrupt mayor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov), who connives to have it taken away from him. Kolia gets an old army fried of his, Dimitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), who is now a lawyer, to help him fight the mayor.
Zvyagintsev shows frequent shots of abandoned and decaying buildings. Leviathan was filmed in the town of Kirovsk, located near Murmansk. This town has been steadily losing population since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Indeed, one possible interpretation of the film’s title is that the characters are living in the decaying carcass of the Soviet Union. In one scene, some of the characters go target shooting. They use for their targets pictures of Soviet leaders.
It’s perhaps an indication of Maxim’s venality that instead of fixing up one of the abandoned buildings, he desires a property that is occupied. Maxim expresses open contempt for Kolia as well as for the other residents of the town. His closest confident is the local high priest. When at one point, Maxim considers giving in to Kolia, the priest tells him, “All power comes from God. As long as it suits Him, fear not.” This moment sets off the series of events that ultimately destroy Kolia.
In the final scene, we see the rich people of the town listening to the high priest give a sermon. Maxim leans over and whispers to his son, “God is watching you.” This is the intertwining of religion and corruption.
Leviathan is a great film.