Leviathan (2014 film)

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Leviathan 2014 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrey Zvyagintsev
Written by
Produced byAlexander Rodnyansky
Sergey Melkumov
CinematographyMikhail Krichman
Music byAndrey Dergachev, Philip Glass
Distributed byFox[2]
Release dates
  • 23 May 2014 (2014-05-23) (Cannes)
  • 5 February 2015 (2015-02-05) (Russia)
Running time
141 minutes[3]
Budget220 million RUB (US$7 million[4])
Box office$3.4 million[2]

Leviathan (Russian: Левиафан, Leviafan) is a 2014 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, co-written by Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, and starring Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, and Vladimir Vdovichenkov.

According to Zvyagintsev, the story of Marvin Heemeyer's 2004 rampage through a small US town using a modified bulldozer inspired him. A similar concept was adapted into a Russian setting.[5] The character development of the protagonist parallels a biblical figure Job and the story of Naboth's Vineyard.[6][7] The producer Alexander Rodnyansky has said: "It deals with some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia while never becoming an artist's sermon or a public statement; it is a story of love and tragedy experienced by ordinary people".[8] Critics noted the film as being formidable,[9][10] dealing with quirks of fate, power and money.[9]

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[11] Zvyagintsev and Negin won the award for Best Screenplay.[12] The film was judged the best film of the year at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and the 45th International Film Festival of India. It won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.[13] and the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Feature Film in 2014.[14] It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards. It was picked as the 47th greatest film since 2000 in a 2016 critics' poll by BBC.[15]


House of Kolya (69°09′47″N 35°07′48″E / 69.163053°N 35.129944°E / 69.163053; 35.129944)

In a northern Russian coastal town live Kolya, a hotheaded car mechanic, his second wife Lilya and his teenage son, Roma. The town's corrupt Mayor Vadim is plotting legal chicanery to expropriate the beautiful seaside land on which Kolya's house is built. The city is forcefully compensating Kolya with a grossly undervalued sum, and Kolya believes the mayor wants the land to build a villa for himself. Kolya's old friend Dima, a sharp and successful lawyer from Moscow, arrives in town to fight the expropriation through the local court system.

After the court rules in favor of the expropriation, Kolya is arrested at the police station for shouting at the officers, and no one in government will accept Dima's new criminal filing against the mayor. However, Dima meets with the mayor, extorting him with a thick folder of incriminating evidence proving his past crimes. A shocked mayor agrees to release Kolya and pay 3.5 million rubles. In a local hotel room, Dima and Lilya have an affair.

The next day the family and Dima attend the seaside, birthday cookout of Kolya's friend Ivan Stepanich, where a child runs to the group saying that he just saw Dima choking Lilya. Kolya runs to find them. Afterward, Dima and Lilya drive back silent together, both with facial bruises. Meanwhile, Mayor Vadim goes for help to one of his crony bosses, the Russian Orthodox Church bishop, who tells him that all power comes from God and encourages him to stop whining to him and solve his problems forcefully. When Dima next meets with the mayor to finalize the payment, the mayor's thugs beat Dima and the mayor carries out a mock execution, advising him to return to Moscow. A conciliatory Lilya returns home to Kolya, but is depressed. Dima stands sadly looking out the window of a moving train.

While the family is packing to move out, Kolya forces himself on Lilya, and Roma accidentally glimpses them in intercourse and flees the house, collapsing in tears by a whale skeleton on the shore. He returns home late, screaming that Lilya leave forever. That night Lilya is unable to sleep, and instead of going to work in the morning, she goes alone to the ocean cliff. When she turns up missing, Kolya desperately searches for her and increases his already very heavy consumption of vodka. Her body is discovered a few days later on the shore. A mournful, drunk Kolya asks the local Orthodox priest why God is doing this to him. The pious priest, quotes from the Biblical book of Job, and counsels Kolya that, when Job accepted his fate, he was rewarded with a long and happy life.

The next morning Kolya is arrested for murder. The prosecutor claims to have evidence that Kolya had sex with her, killed her with his hammer, and threw her into the sea to hide it. Evidence includes his and Lilya's own friends' testimonies about threats he made to Lilya and Dima when he discovered them having sex at the cookout. Kolya is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years. With no family left, Roma reluctantly agrees to be taken in by Kolya's former friends, to avoid being sent to an orphanage. Mayor Vadim receives a call informing him of Kolya's sentence, and the mayor gloats that Kolya will now know to keep in his place. Kolya's house is torn down.

The bishop gives a sermon extoling the virtues of God's truth versus the world's truth, and says that good intentions do not excuse evil acts. He urges the congregation, with the mayor attending, not to act with force or cunning, but to put their trust in Christ. The mayor finalizes the plans for a lavish church on Kolya's old property, and he and other local leaders drive away in their luxury European cars.



When Andrey Zvyagintsev produced a short film in the United States, he was told the story of Marvin Heemeyer.[16] He was amazed by this story and wanted initially to make his film in the US, but then changed his mind.[17] The screenplay was written by Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin and is loosely adapted from the biblical stories of Job from Uz and King Ahab of Samaria and Heinrich von Kleist's novella Michael Kohlhaas. The script features more than fifteen characters, which is unusually many for a film by Zvyagintsev.

Principal photography took place in towns Kirovsk, Monchegorsk, Olenegorsk, near Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Preparations on the set began in May 2013. Principal photography took place during three months from August to October the same year.[18] Filming of exterior scenes for Leviathan took place in the town of Teriberka on the Barents Sea coast.[19]


Leviathan premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened on 23 May. It is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the United States, Curzon Cinemas in the United Kingdom and by Palace Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.[8]

The soundtrack includes an extract from the 1983 opera Akhnaten by Philip Glass.[20]

Critical reception

Peter Bradshaw, writing a full five-star review for The Guardian, gave the film great praise. Bradshaw thought that the film was "acted and directed with unflinching ambition" and described the film as "a forbidding and intimidating piece of work... a movie with real grandeur".[21] Finding parallels with the Book of Job, The New York Review of Books equated the villains with "Leviathan itself" and three characters (played by Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Aleksey Rozin and Anna Ukolova) with Job's three friends.[22]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 149 reviews, and an average rating of 8.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Leviathan lives up to its title, offering trenchant, well-crafted social satire on a suitably grand scale."[23] On Metacritic, based on 34 reviews, Leviathan holds an average score of 92 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".[24]


Thirty-five percent of the funding for Leviathan came from Russia's Ministry of Culture.[25] Vladimir Medinsky, the then Minister of Culture and a conservative historian, acknowledged that the film showed talented moviemaking but said that he did not like it.[26] He sharply criticized its portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing, vodka-swigging people, which he does not recognize from his experience as a Russian or that of "real Russians". He thought it strange that there is not a single positive character in the movie and implied that the director was not fond of Russians but rather "fame, red carpets and statuettes". The Ministry of Culture has now proposed guidelines which would ban movies that "defile" the national culture.[26] In turn, when appearing on oppositional TV channel Dozhd, director Zvyagintsev was criticised by journalist Ksenia Sobchak for accepting government subsidies. Specifically, Sobchak asked whether government funding had had no influence on the content of the movie. In response, Zvyagintsev maintained that he had always felt completely independent from the Ministry in writing and shooting the movie.[citation needed]

Vladimir Pozner, a veteran Russian journalist, said: "Anything seen as being critical of Russia in any way is automatically seen as either another Western attempt to denigrate Russia and the Eastern Orthodox Church, or it's the work of some kind of fifth column of Russia-phobes who are paid by the West to do their anti-Russian work or are simply themselves profoundly anti-Russian."[26]

Metropolitan Simon of Murmansk and Monchegorsk, the diocese where the movie was filmed, issued a statement calling it "honest". He said that Leviathan raised important questions about the state of the country.[26]


On 28 September 2014, it was announced that Leviathan would be Russia's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards.[27][28] It made the January Shortlist of nine films,[29] before being nominated later that month.[30]

The film was named the Best Film at the London Film Festival Awards on 18 October 2014, at a ceremony where the main prizes went to Russia, Ukraine and Syria, three countries at the centre of long-running conflicts. The winning film-makers all said they hoped that culture could help to restore peace to their countries.[31] It was nominated for and won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.[13] The film was adjudged the best film of the 45th International Film Festival of India.

Following the Golden Globe Award, Leviathan was leaked online among some of the other Oscar 2015 nominated films. On 12 January the website "Thank you, Leviathan filmmakers" appeared on the internet encouraging social media users to contribute any amount as a gratitude to the filmmakers.[32] Alexander Rodnyanskiy, Leviathan's producer, supported the initiative of Slava's Smirnov (the website's author and an independent digital producer) and asked to transfer the money to the Podari Zhizn charity fund which is held by actresses Chulpan Khamatova and Dina Korzun.[33]

Film being felicitated at IFFI (2014). (From left) Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Jackie Shroff and Andrey Zvyagintsev
List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
2014 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin Won
Palme d'Or Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
European Film Award Best Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Director Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Screenwriter Oleg Negin,Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Actor Aleksei Serebryakov Nominated
45th International Film Festival of India Golden Peacock Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
International Art Festival of Cinematography Best Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman Won
58th London Film Festival Best Film Andrey Zvyagintsev and Alexander Rodnyansky Won
68th British Academy Film Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
32nd Munich Film Festival Best Film Andrey Zvyagintsev and Alexander Rodnyansky Won
8th Abu Dhabi Film Festival Best Narrative
Best Actor
Andrey Zvyagintsev, Alexey Serebryakov Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival Best Foreign Language Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards[34]
Best Feature film Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
Achievement in Directing Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Achievement in Cinematography Mikhail Krichman Nominated
72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film Andrey Zvyagintsev and Alexander Rodnyansky Won
13th Golden Eagle Award
Best Direction Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
Best Leading Actress Elena Lyadova Won
Best Film Editing Anna Mass Won
Best Supporting Actor Roman Madyanov Won
51st Guldbagge Awards[35] Best Foreign Film Leviathan Won
87th Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
30th Goya Awards Best European Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Russian Guild of Film Critics[36] Best Film Leviathan Won
Best Director Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
Best Screenplay Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev Won
Best Director of Photography Mikhail Krichman Nominated
Best Female Actor Elena Lyadova Won
Best Male Actor Aleksei Serebryakov Won
Best Male Supporting Actor Roman Madyanov Won
27th Nika Awards Best Film Andrey Zvyagintsev, Alexander Rodnyansky Nominated
Best Director Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Screenplay Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman Nominated
Best Actress Elena Lyadova Won
Best Actor Aleksei Serebryakov Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Roman Madyanov Won
Best Supporting Actor Vladimir Vdovichenkov Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Anna Ukolova Nominated
Best Production Designer Andrey Ponkratov Nominated
Best Sound Andrey Dergachev Nominated

See also


  1. ^ a b c Felperin, Leslie (22 May 2016). "'Leviathan': Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Leviathan (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  3. ^ "LEVIATHAN (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  4. ^ Rizov, Vadim. ""A Little Person Against the Government Machine": Andrey Zvyagintsev on Leviathan". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  5. ^ «Если больше нет юродивых, кто скажет о беззаконии и лжи?», Kommersant.ru, 14 May 2014
  6. ^ "What Does the Film Leviathan Tell Us about Putin's Russia and its Past? | History News Network".
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (6 November 2014). "Leviathan review – a compellingly told, stunningly shot drama". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b Hopewell, John; Keslassy, Elsa (17 February 2014). "Berlin – Pyramide Intl. Rolls Out Pre-sales on 'Leviathan,' Russian Director Andrey Zvyagintsev's Follow-Up to 'Elena'". Variety. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  9. ^ a b Bradshaw, Peter (22 May 2014). "Cannes 2014 review: Leviathan - a new Russian masterpiece". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  10. ^ Debruge, Peter (23 May 2014). "Film Review: 'Leviathan'". Variety. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  11. ^ "2014 Official Selection". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Awards 2014 : Competition". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  13. ^ a b 72ND ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE® AWARDS NOMINEES ANNOUNCED. dickclark.com. Retrieved 11 December 2014
  14. ^ "8th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Award Winners". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  15. ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Andrey Zvyagintsev: On art-house film, spirituality and the rule of law". RBTH. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  17. ^ Shoard, Catherine (29 May 2014). "Leviathan: the Cannes hit which absolutely definitely doesn't put the boot in to Putin". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  18. ^ Павлючик, Леонид (27 March 2013). Звягинцев: Фильм "Левиафан" будет многолюдным. Trud (in Russian). Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  19. ^ "Hot Oscar tip from Russia gives Kremlin the shivers". The Sunday Times. 25 January 2015. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  20. ^ "Leviathan (2014)". IMDb. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  21. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (22 May 2014). "Cannes review: Leviathan – a new Russian masterpiece". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Leviathan". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Leviathan (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Leviathan Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Putin-bashing film Leviathan named as Russia's Oscar contender". The Guardian. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  26. ^ a b c d Neil MacFarquhar (27 January 2015). "Russian Movie 'Leviathan' Gets Applause in Hollywood but Scorn at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  27. ^ "Фильм Андрея Звягинцева "Левиафан" выдвинут на "Оскар"". Itar-Tass. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  28. ^ "Russia backs social drama Leviathan for Oscar after Cannes win". GlobalPost. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  29. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Advance in Oscar Race". AMPAS. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Oscar Nominations 2015: See The Full List". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  31. ^ "International Politics Creeps into LFF Awards". UK Screen. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  32. ^ "Leviathan Thank you Website opening". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  33. ^ "Authors supported the fan's initiative". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  34. ^ Pip Bulbeck. "'Leviathan' Wins Best Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  35. ^ "Nominations for the 2015 Guldbagge Awards". Swedish Film Institute. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  36. ^ "2014". Russian Guild of Film Critics. Retrieved 12 March 2017.

External links