Leviathan

Leviathan ★★★★

For all the talk about consciousness, environment, and labour that is getting tossed around with this one – all of which, don’t get me wrong, are among the major themes here – the project seems to be first and foremost an attempt at recalibrating viewers’ sense of gravity. Functioning as a quasi-sequel to Michael Snow’s landmark (pun kind of intended) La région centrale, Leviathan thrashes the camera erratically in any and every which direction; space is spun, flipped, and exploded to often vertiginous effect, to the point where I felt like I was going to fall out of my seat on a few occasions (oh how I would kill for an IMAX screening). One could even say that Castaing-Taylor and Paravel one-up Snow by allowing the apparatus to puncture the surface below (the ocean), revealing an entirely new, mirrored space to be whisked through. The connection between the two films is underlined when the camera sits inside the boat at night time, the moon visible through a small window, ping-ponging off the perimeter of the frame-within-the-frame, virtually dwarfing Snow’s film by relegating it to a tiny region of its own composition. There’s also a stark difference in how we perceive mobility in the two films. Snow creates motion despite stasis (the camera is anchored to the desert ground); in Leviathan, successive shots take place potentially tens or hundreds of miles from where the previous one was taken, yet we still feel uncannily fixed for the entire 85 minutes, essentially locked in the single location that is ‘at sea.’ Even the shot of the man watching TV for five straight minutes has its own sense of instability thanks to the soundscape of thrashing waves and whistling wind, creating yet another scenario of moving and not moving simultaneously. There will be decades-worth of imitators.