“My position is that of a cinema director. I’m not politically active. But I can’t not react to what is happening around me” says Andrei Zvyagintsev, whose latest movie – LEVIATHAN – can be seen as a very political film, directly aimed to criticize the current elite of Russia. Set on a peninsula by the Barents Sea, the film tells a story about a man opposing a corrupt mayor over his piece of land. As such, it becomes an allegory to the important social issues that prevail in a contemporary Russia, such as corruption and intimidation, where all that matters is money and power.
Despite this obviously noticeable link Zvyagintsev has not openly admitted that his intention was to criticize Russia’s regime in particular. On the contrary, he repeatedly said that he was inspired by the story of Marvin John Heemeyer (Heemeyer was a man living in Colorado who went on a rampage with a bulldozer in 2004 after the local authorities gave permission to construct a factory that would block the entrance to his shop) and was meant as an universal parable about the human condition, that is not specific to Russia, but also to the West. Nevertheless, the news that the film was named as Russia’s Oscar contender was received with quite a surprise particularly because of the aforementioned overall theme of the film, not because anybody would be opposing the fact that LEVIATHAN is not worth the honor. On the contrary it received a number of awards, among which the best film award at the London Film festival.
LEVIATHAN is not the first acknowledged work by Zvyagintsev. Prior to making it he directed THE RETURN in 2003, a story about two boys whose father returns after 12-year of absence and takes them on a holiday that turns into a test of manhood. THE RETURN won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In 2007 followed the release of THE BANISHMENT, which was partly based on the William Soroyan novel “The Laughing Matter”. ELENA, a third film of Zvyagintsev reveals his view on the life in Moscow, telling a story of social and cultural distance between people living in the luxurious apartments in the city center and those living in shabby krushchevka.
The film was awarded by the Special Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard at the Cannes.
Seeing the success that led Zvyagintsev in his relatively short filming career, one could wish that the director would not stop walking on the current path. Fortunately, in one of the recent interviews Zvyagintsev revealed that he has four screenplays ready, so his admirers can be certain that there will be some more great features coming from the Russian director. Here at ÉCU we cannot wait to see what else he has to offer to the film world.