Friday, November 21, 2014


By D.E.Levine

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev gives us a satiric expose of the Russian system which shows the struggle of the current society with alcohol, guns, religion and politics.  It's amazing that the director wasn't imprisoned for giving us this view of Russia.

In a small village on the Kola Peninsula on the northwest coast of Russia, scattered with the remains of whales and ships, the population struggles against corrupt politicians and a state that has lost touch with its citizens.

Residing on a riverside homestead settled by his ancestors, Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) lives with his family, including son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev), and second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova).  When a corrupt town mayor seizes the land for his personal purposes, Kolya calls upon his old friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovitvhenkov), a lawyer, to come from Moscow and contest the mayor's claim of eminent domain.

After going to court and having their appeal denied, Kolya and Dmitri go up the bureaucratic chain of command and of course, since everyone is "in the mayor's pocket" continue to lose their appeals.  Dmitri has come prepared though and attempts to blackmail the mayor with a binder containing incriminating evidence.  In the interim, he has an affair with Lilya, despite the fact she's his friend's wife.  And Kolya never stops drinking throughout the film, obviously deeply depressed over everything in his life.

The movie is full of unexpected twists and turns.  It's a serious theme and a "heavy" film but it's also filled with comedy.  There are serious statements about the average working citizen suffering daily at the hands of the corrupt politicians, and the inevitability of all courses of action failing as they fight the "leviathan".  When we see the bleached bones of whales on the beach we also encounter the bleached lives and emotions of the residents of Russia.

This is not a light-hearted film.  It raises serious questions about the Russian system today and how long men and women can continue to support a system that fails them and offers nothing to hang onto.  It's a very depressing film for the viewer but it's also thought provoking, getting the audience to think about the political system in Russia and the plight of the citizens.