Set on the edge of civilisation in Northern Russia, Leviathan tells of the tragic conflict between car mechanic Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov) and a corrupt mayor (a fantastically despicable Roman Madyanov) who wants Kolya’s land to build a gruesome luxury dacha. Kolya, a tough frontiersman who feels that he has already relinquished quite enough to the state, with its dodgy cops and shady politicians, tries desperately to resist the sale with the help of a childhood friend, but finds the noose tightening around his neck from every perceivable angle.
Director Andrey Zvyagintsev insists that the story was inspired by real-life events in Colorado, not Russia, and that the story is not uniquely Russian. Despite this, the Russian Ministry of Culture – part-financiers of the film – took great offence at the film and proposed new regulations to prevent future funds from being used to produce films that “defiled” the national culture.
Suppressed upon release (it played for just one week at a single cinema in St Petersburg in order to make it eligible for entry into the 2014 Oscars®), the film eventually opened six months later in over 600 Russian cinemas following widespread public interest and massive online piracy – it was estimated to have been downloaded illegally by 1.5 million Russians.
Whatever the political backdrop, this epic story proved itself one dissenting voice that demanded to be heard.
Part of Watershed’s Cinema of Dissent season which is inspired by Ken Loach’s impassioned acceptance speech at Cannes. A weekend of films and talks exploring artistic dissent around the world and celebrate the filmmakers who, despite restrictions, demonstrate a desire to keep this important cinematic tradition alive.