Andrey Zvyagintsev never loses sight of the humans, who're allowed to display improvisatory behavior that deepens the majesty of the rigorously orchestrated tableaus.
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Rather than building towards the finality of a single climax, Leviathan injects several of them into the tapestry of its elegant design.
Zvyagintsev's pessimism is leavened both by his comedy and his sense of beauty. Mikhail Krichman's cinematography captures the sublime grandeur of the landscape against which the nasty, brutish and short lives are played out.
Simultaneously a modern essay on suffering, an open-ended thriller, and a black social comedy, it is most importantly of all a thinly-veiled political parable drenched in bitter irony that takes aim against the corrupt, corrosive regime of Vladimir Putin.
If there was ever any doubt as to Zvyagintsev's position as one of world cinema's foremost auteurs, it's put to rest here. His filmmaking has always been superb, but he's never taken on the state of his nation in the way he does here. And that makes "Leviathan" not just masterful but also hugely important.
Leviathan is acted and directed with unflinching ambition, moving with deliberative slowness and periodically accelerating at moments of high drama and suspense. It isn't afraid of massive symbolic moments and operatic gestures.
This is the director’s most accessible and naturalistic film, using everyday characters to test how well modern-day Russia is maintaining the social contract with its citizens.
Why should you suffer through a 140-minute Russian film that is basically a contemporary remake of The Book of Job? Because it's a stupendous piece of work, that's why, and because it represents the kind of challenging, intimate filmmaking that transcends language and borders.
Frustrating, funny at points, heartbreaking and quite magnificently shot throughout, Leviathan is one of the films of the year.
It’s a bleak but compassionate, glancingly comic and often satirically incendiary work about the pyramid structure of Russian corruption, with the little guy crushed helplessly beneath, and God, or at least the orthodox Church, perched at the top.