Pirate my film says Leviathan director

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

February 10, 2015

Leviathan is a critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film by Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev. A bleak retelling of the Old Testament’s Book of Job (with liberal use of Hobbesian references), Leviathan follows the misfortunes of its protagonist, Nikolai, as he fights to save his home from a corrupt town mayor. It features grasping officials, satirises the Orthodox Church, and even the victims are treated unsympathetically.

Despite international acclaim and the fact that it was made partly with Russia’s culture ministry money, the film has upset officials in its native Russia. The culture minister, Vladimir Medinksy, has himself has declared the film anti-Russian,

However much the authors made the characters swear and swig litres of vodka, they are not Russians. I did not recognise myself, my colleagues, friends or even friends of friends in Leviathan’s characters.’

Zvyagintsev defended the film against such charges to the Guardian,

It’s a very Russian film … We live in a feudal system when everything is in the hands of one person, and everyone else is in a vertical of subordination.

He did however concede to a news conference in Russia that his film has divided Russian opinion,

The audience, the country was split over it. It should have been understood that the public would be polarized, but the extreme points of view over the film show it was a success. It touched something very important.

As a result of official displeasure, Leviathan has been heavily censored under Russia’s new ban on swearing in the arts regulations, in addition to being shown on only 650 screens across the whole country. Deeply unhappy about with this situation, Zvyagintsev has told that,

‘I would suggest that viewers who have no opportunity to see the film on the big screen as it may not make it to a small town or village, just download the picture and watch it.

Apparently around 4 million people have taken him up on the suggestion so far…

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