Leviathan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2015 by  


“Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences. The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance! “Leviathan” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Leviathan


DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1),Russian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English, Spanish – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and Some Sexuality/Graphic Nudity)

Release Date: May 19, 2015

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Written by Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Produced by Sergey Melkumov, Alexander Rodnyansky

Co-Producer: Marianna Sardarova

Music by Philip Glass

Cinematography by Mikhail Krichman

Casting by Elina Ternyaeva

Production Design by Andrey Ponkratov


Elena Lyadova as Lilya

Vladimir Vdovichenkov as Dmitriy Seleznyov

Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya

Roman Madyanov as Vadim Shelevyat, mer

Anna Ukolova as Anzhela

Sergey Pokhodaev as Roma

Aleksey Rozin as Pavel

In a small coastal town in Russia lives an ordinary family: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) his wife Lilya, and their teenage son Roma. The family is haunted by a local corrupt mayor who is trying to take away Kolya’s business, house and precious land. Kolya calls in an old friend, now an authoritative attorney, for help. Together they fight back and collect dirt on the mayor, but fate does not seem to be on Kolya’s side.

Award-winning filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (“The Return”, “Elena”, “The Banishment”) returns with his latest film “Leviathan” which was inspired by the story of Marvin Heemeyer (the American domestic terrorist who modified his bulldozer and went on a building demolishing rampage before killing himself) but adapted into a Russian setting.

The film would star Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov and Sergey Pokhodaev.

“Leviathan” won “Best Screenplay” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, a winner of “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Film”.

And the film was released in May 2015 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Leviathan” is set in a coastal town in Russia.  Kolya is a short-tempered alcoholic man who works as a mechanic and lives with his wife Lilia (portrayed by Elena Lyadova) and his son Roma (portrayed by Sergey Pokhodaev), from his first marriage.

His son doesn’t listen much to anyone and does not get along with his stepmother, while Lilia tries to fit in.

Kolya is a pessimist who is having problems dealing with the crooked mayor, Vadim (portrayed by Roman Madyanov) who wants Kolya’s property , Kolya thinks the mayor wants to build a villa for himself.

So, Kolya enlists the help of his old army friend Dmitri (portrayed by Vladimir Vdovichenkov) from Moscow and in the process, finds documents that will allow them to blackmail Mayor Vadim.

But while things look as they are going well, Lilia starts to have a sexual affair with Dmitri and from this point on, life for Kolya would change drastically.


“Leviathan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, especially with closeups and outdoor shots.  Although there is a softness to the overall film, which I believe to be intentional.  Not a vibrant or very sharp film but for the most part, the film does look good, just don’t expect vibrant film that pops.

It looks as if the film is shot due to the overcast and because the nature of the film is quite bleak, it lent to the setting of the film. So, it is not a film that will stand out for its colors but the cinematography by Mikhail Krichman is magnificent.


“Leviathan” is presented in Russian 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels, while surround usage showcases ambiance of the environment, so you can hear waves crashing, trains passing by and overall environments around the home, especially the sounds of a bulldozer.  But overall, lossless audio is very good.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.


“Leviathan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Andrey Zvyaginstev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
  • The Making of Leviathan – (29:27) An in-depth look at the making of “Leviathan”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Andrey Zvagintsev – (15:04) A TIFF Q&A with Andrey Zvaginstev with TIFF Programmer Cameron Bailey.
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:18) Featuring deleted scenes from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The original theatrical trailer for “Leviathan”.

For those who have never watched an Andrey Zvyagintsev film, the best way that I can describe his films is like reading a novel and with each chapter, the story evolves but not conforming to a story that necessarily makes one feel there is hope or giving one pleasure, his films often relies on the characters and storyline.

“Leviathan” is a film that revolves around a theme about a man who wants to stand up against the corrupt mayor in his town, who has his eyes on his property.  Property that he built his home and has lived together with his family.

And as this storyline is common with other films and the banality often has the landowner doing whatever is necessary to fight back, as what we are typically used to seeing in American films.

For a Russian film, is there any good that can be done by standing up to corrupted, powerful officials?  In this case, a crooked mayor?

As one can surmise with the many people who have cameras in their vehicles to protect themselves from police corruption, in “Leviathan”, one should not watch this film expecting American bravado or Rambo-esque endings.

“Leviathan” is a film that has many layers and as the story evolves, you can see much thought went to its characters but also its characters given a harsh reality that is what it is, but by no means, will one receive any pleasure of a happy ending, because in reality, happy endings do not always exist for everyone.

The story focuses on Kolya, a man who is often drunk, short-tempered and often seeing things negatively.  And with the crooked mayor Vadim eying the property where his home built, he wants to stand up to the mayor and enlists his former military buddy turned lawyer from Moscow, Dmitry to help him out.

But life is what it is for Kolya, ignoring the discontent of his wife Lilya and thinks his son Roma’s resentment to his stepmother is just something he must get over, he has a family upside down but it is preoccupied to do anything about it.

So, when Dmitriy comes to help him, Dmitriy is able to find documents that can embarrass the mayor.

And for the time being, you think Kolya has the one-up on the crooked mayor but things start to unravel quickly.

Dmitriy has a sexual affair with Lilya but to make things worse (and probably the dumbest decision made by the participating people), during a family and friends outing, both Dmitriy and Lilya decide to have sex together again outdoors and they are caught.

And unfortunately from that point on in the film, for each character close to Kolya, everything spirals downward in his life.

The performances by Aleksey Serebryakov and Elena Lyadova are magnificent but its careful attention to the screenplay is what brings out this film.  And its story separates itself from similar stories that focus on bravado and action.  These characters face major dilemmas and they are greatly affected.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but it’s important to note that the film was shot during overcast, so the picture quality is more dim and adding to the bleakness of the film.  But the chosen scenes to showcase the environment of the area was well-done by cinematographer Mikhail Krichman.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven but in moments showcasing the tides hitting the rocks or hearing gun shots to a bulldozer, does add to the ambiance of the film.  Special features including a making of, deleted scenes and Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, “Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences.  The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance!

“Leviathan” is recommended!

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