Leviathan (2014 film)

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 in the United States inspired him and it was adapted into a Russian setting.[4] The character development of the protagonist parallels a biblical figure, Job.[5] 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".[6] Critics noted the film as being formidable,[7][8] dealing with quirks of fate, power and money.[7]

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

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[9] Zvyagintsev and Negin won the award for Best Screenplay.[10] 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.[11] and the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Feature Film in 2014[12]. 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.[13]


Set in the fictional town of Pribrezhny (shot in the coastal town of Teriberka,[14] Murmansk Oblast), Russia, the plot follows the tragic series of events that affect Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov), a hotheaded car mechanic, his second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and his teenage son, Roma (Sergey Pokhodyaev). The town's crooked Mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov) has undertaken a legal plot to expropriate the land on which Kolya's house is built.

The mayor's plan is supposedly to build a telecommunications mast on Kolya's property, offering a grossly undervalued sum for compensation, although Kolya believes that his real plan is to build a villa for himself. Kolya's long-time friend Dima (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a sharp and successful lawyer from Moscow, attempts to fight the expropriation through the local court system.

During the course of the trial, Kolya is arrested for shouting at corrupt police officers in a police station. When the trial rules in favor of the mayor, Dima manages to get him to step back, and to secure Kolya's release from jail, by threatening him with compromising documents. However, during Kolya's absence, Lilya engages in an impromptu sexual encounter with Dima.

During an outing with Kolya's friend Ivan Stepanich (Sergei Bachursky), Roma's friend witnesses Lilya and Dima having sex and Kolya, learning of the affair, assaults the couple. Meanwhile, Mayor Vadim visits his friend, a local Russian Orthodox Church bishop (Valeriy Grishko), for spiritual comfort, who tells him that all power comes from God and encourages him to solve his problems forcefully. Subsequently, Vadim and his thugs abduct Dima and carry out a mock execution, advising him to return to Moscow. Afterwards Vadim continues his drive to expropriate Kolya's house. The last appearance of Dima shows him looking out of the window of a train, ostensibly en route back to Moscow.

Lilya returns home to Kolya, but she is depressed by the public revelation of her affair. While the family is packing to move out, Kolya corners Lilya in the basement and rapes her. Roma witnesses the event and flees the house, collapsing in tears by a whale skeleton on the shore. He returns home late at night, and explicitly blames Lilya for everything that is going wrong in their lives.

That night, Lilya is unable to sleep and leaves the house in the early morning. The next morning she does not turn up at work and her phone is switched off. Her body is discovered a few days later. A mournful Kolya starts drinking even more and, meeting a priest, asks why God is doing this to him. The priest, who is a pious man, quotes from the Biblical book of Job, and counsels Kolya that, when Job accepted his fate, he was rewarded by God with a long and happy life.

The next day, Kolya is arrested. The police claim to have evidence that he raped Lilya and murdered her with a blow to the head, using a blunt object. Evidence against him includes his and Lilya's own friends' testimonies about threats he made to Lilya and Dima when he discovered their affair, and one of his shop hammers being shaped "similarly" to the wound in her head. Kolya is convicted of murder and sentenced to fifteen years in a maximum-security prison. 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 then receives a call informing him of Kolya's sentence, and he gloats and says that Kolya got what he deserved for having stood up against him.

In the end, Kolya's house is torn down and Mayor Vadim's project is revealed: a lavish church for his friend the bishop. The film concludes with a sermon by the bishop, with the mayor in attendance. The bishop extols 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 not to act with force or cunning, but to put their trust in Christ.



When Andrey Zvyagintsev produced a short film in the United States, he was told the story of Marvin Heemeyer.[15] He was amazed by this story and wanted initially to make his film in the US, but then changed his mind.[16] 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.[17] Filming of exterior scenes for Leviathan took place in the town of Teriberka on the Barents Sea coast.[18]


Leviathan premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened on 23 May. It will be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the United States, Curzon Cinemas in the United Kingdom and by Palace Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.[6]

The soundtrack includes an extract from the 1983 opera Akhnaten by Philip Glass.[19]

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".[20] 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.[21]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 147 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."[22] On Metacritic, based on 34 reviews, Leviathan holds an average score of 92 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".[23]


Thirty-five percent of the funding for Leviathan came from Russia's Ministry of Culture.[24] However, Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture, a conservative historian, acknowledged that the film showed talented moviemaking, but said he did not like it.[25] 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.[25] 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.

Vladimir Posner, 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."[25]

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.[25]


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.[26][27] It made the January Shortlist of nine films,[28] before being nominated later that month.[29]

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.[30] It was nominated for and won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.[11] 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.[31] 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.[32]

List of awards and nominations
AwardCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
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[33]
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[34] 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[35] 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

See also


  1. Felperin, Leslie (22 May 2016). "'Leviathan': Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  2. "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. «Если больше нет юродивых, кто скажет о беззаконии и лжи?», Kommersant.ru, 14 May 2014
  5. Bradshaw, Peter (6 November 2014). "Leviathan review – a compellingly told, stunningly shot drama". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  6. 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.
  7. Bradshaw, Peter (22 May 2014). "Cannes 2014 review: Leviathan - a new Russian masterpiece". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  8. Debruge, Peter (23 May 2014). "Film Review: 'Leviathan'". Variety.com. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  9. "2014 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  10. "Awards 2014 : Competition". Cannes. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  11. 72ND ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE® AWARDS NOMINEES ANNOUNCED. dickclark.com. Retrieved 11 December 2014
  12. "8th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Award Winners". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  13. "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  14. Parfitt, Tom. "The real Arctic village behind the Oscar-nominated Leviathan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  15. "Andrey Zvyagintsev: On art-house film, spirituality and the rule of law". Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  16. Shoard, Catherine (29 May 2014). "Leviathan: the Cannes hit which absolutely definitely doesn't put the boot in to Putin". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  17. Павлючик, Леонид (27 March 2013). Звягинцев: Фильм "Левиафан" будет многолюдным. Trud (in Russian). Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  18. "Hot Oscar tip from Russia gives Kremlin the shivers". The Sunday Times. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  19. "Leviathan (2014)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  20. Bradshaw, Peter (22 May 2014). "Cannes review: Leviathan – a new Russian masterpiece". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  21. "Leviathan". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  22. "Leviathan (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  23. "Leviathan Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  24. "Putin-bashing film Leviathan named as Russia's Oscar contender". The Guardian. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  25. Neil MacFarquhar (27 January 2015). "Russian Movie 'Leviathan' Gets Applause in Hollywood but Scorn at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  26. "Фильм Андрея Звягинцева "Левиафан" выдвинут на "Оскар"". Itar-Tass. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  27. "Russia backs social drama Leviathan for Oscar after Cannes win". GlobalPost. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  28. "9 Foreign Language Films Advance in Oscar Race". AMPAS. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  29. "Oscar Nominations 2015: See The Full List". Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  30. "International Politics Creeps into LFF Awards". UK Screen. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  31. "Leviathan Thank you Website opening:". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  32. "Authors supported the fan's initiative:". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  33. Pip Bulbeck. "'Leviathan' Wins Best Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  34. "Nominations for the 2015 Guldbagge Awards". Swedish Film Institute. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  35. "2014". Russian Guild of Film Critics. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
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