Leviathan is a tragedy, about what unfolds when a corrupt government seizes a man’s home.
I hate watching a tragedy. Not because they are sad but because they are inevitable, and you spend most of the movie, or play, or book, only waiting to see how the tragedy plays out: what crisis of mistaken identity will lead to the wrong person’s death, or Bubbles kills Sherrod, or whatever. But see, that second one is a bad example, because Bubbles killing Sherrod was shocking and unexpected, which was why The Wire was so incredible. Most movie tragedies, it’s like watching someone push a baby out onto a just-frozen-over lake: You’re only waiting for everything to go through the ice.
Leviathan is so beautiful that you forget, for the most part, that we’re just waiting to see how Kolya is going to go through the ice. Kolya owns a house of startling beauty—at first I thought at he was rich, not that he was a perma-drunk auto mechanic married to Lilya, a beautiful if ill-at-ease worker at a fish processing factory. Three generations of his family have lived in the house, which is perched above an unnamed village on Russia’s northern coast. The problem with the house is that Vadim, the town’s mayor, has decided he wants it, and what Vadim wants, Vadim gets—despite Kolya’s lengthy and litigious efforts to stop him, and despite the arrival, from Moscow, of Kolya’s friend Dima, a crafty but overmatched lawyer.
All of the acting is great but especially the actress who plays Lilya, Elena Lyadova, who is gorgeous in real life but not in this movie: You can see why Kolya prizes her so highly, but you can also see how close she is to losing everything: her youth, her beauty, and the opportunities that both have afforded her.
It’s also worth mentioning the music, which is Philip Glass and just as amazing as when Battlestar Galactica used Metamorphosis One:
It’s worth noting that the source material for the film—a man losing his home to the state—is American in origin.