Leviathan (2013)

There was more (fish) blood then I expected.

There was more (fish) blood then I expected.


INTRODUCTION. Documentaries. Documentariiiiies. Having regretfully missed Leviathan at the Edinburgh Festival earlier this year, I was quite excited about catching it this evening- especially after all the hype surrounding it! I admittedly do not adore this particular documentary format, similar to the artful Materia Oscurabut don’t let it be said that I won’t give anything a shot. Leviathan comes across as more polished and devoted in its craft than Oscura. It is certainly something to behold. 

CHARACTERS. There aren’t any distinct personalities besides the ship’s operators and labourers, which is why I haven’t given this category a numerical rating. What we have in the stead of characters is a sense of humanity and the intangible presence of monstrosity- not as individuals but in terms of implication and theme. Documentaries about issues such as these aren’t purely illustrative; they extend to include the audience. This isn’t just a study of commercial fishing, it is a study of what our socio-economic practices continue to uphold. Leviathan portrays the ocean as something overwhelmingly formidable but it also proves to us that mankind is giving her a run for her money. 

STORY. The film follows common operations of the commercial fishing industry. There is no voiceover and dialogue is sparse, incidental. I wouldn’t describe it as having a story so much as being an experience in itself: dragging at points and compensating with disturbingly visceral, stark shots. Leviathan doesn’t utilize a conventional documentary format and subscribes to the ‘day in the life of‘ school of storytelling. These are things you should expect before going to see it. Also expect to be confronted by its haunting beauty- not always pretty, yet consistently affecting. There is nothing here for the faint of heart and even the most diehard of sea life activists will find themselves discovering something unexpected in the dark, meandering sequences adrift on the sea. 

CONCLUSION. Leviathan is not a typical documentary. If you’re looking for a run-of-the-mill glimpse at commercial fishing… this isn’t your film. Look elsewhere.  Activists, artists, film-goers open to the experimentative: venture forward!


STORY: 7/10
OVERALL: 6.5/10

2 thoughts on “Leviathan (2013)

  1. I think we have similar opinions of what Leviathan sets as its purpose: an experience. The film seems to set aside conventional forms of engagement and offers a different conception of the cinematic document.

    I’ve had a go at identifying how Leviathan‘s aesthetic might provide future filmmaker’s with a new physical form, which holds its own benefits: http://wp.me/p4bv5I-7

    Let’s have a discussion!

    • Hi, sorry about the delay. I enjoyed your post – and agree whole heartedly, especially about the nausea (a warning note should be added to every review) and future potential for this ‘cinema of experience’. I do hope to see more documentarists adopting an approach similar to this – just out of curiousity for the evolution of its format.

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