Leviathan (2012)

10:26 AM


Last year, if I'd been forced to watch an 87 minutes-long experimental documentary on the North-Atlantic commerical fishing industry, in which not a single word is spoken, I'd probably have rather poked my eyes out. Luckily, I've opted to grow a pair and face the poorly-lit, disembodied camera viewpoints that seem to dominate certain experimental films, head-on. Leviathan (2012) is one of those difficult to watch films that you could never really finish unless you watched it on a big screen or had an insane amount of discipline not to periodically check Facebook. The imagery of the film comes from tiny waterproof cameras that are placed in various locations or attached to moving objects and people, capturing the sights and sounds of the commercial fishing world. Thirty percent of the film is visually stunning and the rest is a blurry, dark mess with the occasional glowing alienesque halo hovering over severed fish heads or tangled nets. One quote I came across hilariously offered the title of David Lynch, Gone Fishin' as an alternative title to the film [x]. Other memorable shots feature a viewpoint of hopping under and above water, each time surfacing to an incredible flock of seagulls hovering just about the surface of the water. And although there is no scripted dialogue or voice-over narrative, the men who work the fishing boats are shown in all their raw honesty below the decks cleaning shells, above deck chopping rays or in the lounges watching TV on break. Leviathan covers a lot of startling images but the greatest mystery of the film is what kind of message the filmmakers were trying to make with this work, in that there really isn't a singular stance they're taking. Leviathan is categorized as a documentary, though it doesn't really seem to constitute one without any kind of information supplementary to the images. "Experimental Ethnographic film" might be a more appropriate term. Whatever the right wording is, I came away from this screening with a real respect for what the filmmakers (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel) had accomplished. I can't say for certain that I can land on any kind of opinion regarding the subject of the film, but I know that I was deeply affected by certain images (especially one in which two fishermen systemically hack the wings off of Rays). Leviathan isn't in any way trustworthy or certain, but it's not a film I'll soon forget. 

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