Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 84%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 54%
IMDb Rating 6.5 10 2678


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October 24, 2013 at 05:32 PM

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1hr 27 min
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Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 27 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by tieman64 6 / 10

For Cod's sake

Directed by Lucian Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, "Leviathan" is an experimental documentary set on a New Bedford fishing trawler. Both Lucian and Verena are members of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University; sensory ethnography attempts to merge aesthetics with the anthropological study of people and cultures. Presumably the duo are attempting to impart the "sensation" and "feeling" of life on a trawler.

Is sensory ethnography an art or an academic field of discipline? Is it both? Isn't good art already anthropological? Doesn't good art already convey the feeling and sensation of people, cultures and places? Conversely, doesn't a good paper or lecture by an anthropologist – arguably a "type of art" - do the same? Why exactly does Harvard have a sensory ethnography department? Who does this department hope to reach?

Regardless, Lucina and Verena previously made "Foreign Parts" and "Sweetgrass", which delved into the worlds of urban chop-shops and rural shepherds. Both were comprised of interviews, dialogue, wide shots, and somewhat thin observations about labour, people and social relations. These films attempted to provide "insights" into their subjects.

"Leviathan" is a different beast altogether. Interviews, narration and dialogue have been jettisoned. Gone too are most medium and wide-shots, the film mostly comprised of close-ups stolen from small cameras mounted at odd angles throughout a fishing boat. These cameras capture roiling waves, dark skies, nets, fish, chains and much flopping, gasping and sloshing to and fro. The film is dizzying, disorienting, expressionistic, each shot like the pebble of a mosaic that never quite coalesces. Like obscure images torn from the swollen eyeballs of decapitated fish, "Leviathan" doesn't make much "normal" visual sense.

Fittingly, "Leviathan" opens with an epigraph from the Book of Job, a book which speaks of the impossibility of capturing a Biblical beast. "Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook," Job reads, "or tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose, or pierce its jaw with a hook?"

Do Lucian and Verena intend their film to be a similar statement on the "impossibility of capturing" certain "sensations" and "turths" via media? If so, good job. Or do the duo intend their film to be a "sensory experience" which honestly explores the sensory overload of commercial trawling? If so, then the film is mostly ridiculous. In the world of "Leviathan", fishing is a ghoulish horror-show, an unending blitz of stabbing sounds and discordant imagery. Here, everything is bathed in Old Testament doom and gloom, the oceans apocalyptic, the skies on fire and man and nature forever locked in a battle for supremacy; fishermen murder beasts by the millions whilst Nature reaches down and squeezes man.

But this is not the "reality" of fishing or the reality of fishing towns (see Frederick Wiseman's "Belfast, Maine"). It's more a freak-show for easily grossed-out First Worlders beholden to hand sanitisers, tampons, microwave dinners, anti-septic maternity wards and pre-packaged, bone-less meat. "Leviathan's" plays like a film about the working class which panders to the pampered and the intelligentsia. Assuming, of course, Lucian and Verena intended to make a film about fishing. For all we know, "Leviathan's" literally the adventure of a fish's dismembered eyeball.

6/10 – Worth one viewing.

Reviewed by Trenton Hoshiko 10 / 10

One of the most beautiful and amazing works of film I have ever seen!

If you want to see a masterpiece of visual and sound like no other, see the documentary film Leviathan. It is one of my favorite films (now) and like nothing I have ever seen, a true experience of nature and life in both the cruelest and most beautiful sense.

The director is able to convey amazing emotion and feeling though just the use of light and shape, let alone the whole piece taking the audience though an experience of life and nature. It's contrasting imagery of experimental visuals based on shape and color compared to ones of stark, bestial nature.

I barely have any words to try and explain how masterful this film is. Please do not avoid it because some of the poor reviews here, watch the film with an open mind and you will experience something that you never have before.

Reviewed by elpnl81 7 / 10

The sea

An interestingly filmed documentary that suggests a sensory experience rather than just capturing the conventionally "beautiful" images of the life in the sea. If you wish to watch a film that has a conventional narration do not watch this. The camera seeks to document fish, birds, nets, man, the sea etc with the same curiosity and the same intensity, everything being of the same importance. The camera moves a lot in this process and sometimes makes you feel dizzy but at the same time this way of documenting captures the essence of this world where everything moves and swirls constantly. Throughout the film there is an insistent mixing and blurring between the sea and the sky, up and down. The scenes showing the masses of fish tangled in the nets suggest a comment on man's voracity. Beautifully recorded sound. A bit bumpy but an interesting and genuine experience.

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