One of the most intriguing films of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival is the experimental documentary Leviathan; an abstract look at the relationship between man and nature. It won’t be for everyone, in fact it will probably appeal to a smaller part of the audience who have the patience to endure its 87 minutes of non-linear, strangely intense, nautical imagery.
This isn’t the sort of film that offers up its direction with any ease, it’s a slog, a hard slog conveyed by the labours of everyone involved. Filmed on numerous cameras spread over a North Atlantic commercial fishing boat, Leviathan never attempts the perspective that would perhaps make the film easy- thus inevitably dull- and it is no accident that there is a lack of interviews and even general dialogue between the boat workers to ease the audiences viewing. Leviathan is bold on this front, unapologetic for a technique too despondent for the casual viewer, but it’s this bold use of camera position and sound, the raw and honest quality of the film, that holds attention at some of the more startling images. The camera angles are carefully selected to give those points of view that are never really considered: the ship’s deck amongst the fish and swill, the merciless process of decapitating fish, an extreme close-up of the net chains as they are pulled too and fro in a storm. Amongst the catalogue of sequences are some real treasures that seem to offer a true fly-on-the-wall look at one of man’s oldest industries yet on the other hand there are some too out-there for enjoyment, ensuring long stretches of the film crawl along ensuring attention dithers.
By the end Leviathan seems unperturbed with relaying any true meaning or opinion on the fishing industry, other than to explore the gargantuan operation that it is and expose the isolated nature of its process. At points the film shows truly wonderful camera work be it the night-time filming of man vs. waves or the flipping of sea and sky, and at others it starts to unravel itself through sticking to its guns as a varied selection of image and sound recorded on an actual fishing boat. By the end you cant help but wonder what it would have been like with an orchestral accompaniment.
An interesting look at the epic harsh relationship between modern man and the sea, Leviathan uses innovative camera work and a lack of non-diegetic sound to relay an isolated and chaotic atmosphere; however by the end it proves just as arduous a journey for the viewer.
Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel