Michael Hayward's Blog

VIFF 2012: Leviathan

Michael Hayward

Leviathan is an impressionistic and chaotic collection of images and location sound captured on board and in the immediate vicinity of a rusting trawler, by a video camera which seems to have escaped its operator to embark upon a prolonged game of hide and seek.

Coyly, the camera hides (and slides) among the dying snapper, skate and chum (who, hauled from the depths, bear mute witness to the game with protruding eyes and distended stomachs). Hiding in the ship's rigging, the rogue camera next observes the trawler's slimy deck pitch in darkness far below; from below the waterline, it watches a net filled with scallops (and starfish, an unwanted collateral) waiting to be hauled aboard. From a hiding spot near the scuppers, it watches with cool detachment as blood, fish-heads and guts are sluiced from the trawler's decks into the sea; veiled by steam, it hides out in a shower stall while one of the crew members scrubs down.

Most of this world, an aquatic kind of hell, is black, wet, and coated in a mixture of fish-blood and slime. The horizon line (the few times we glimpse it) is in constant motion and perpetually skewed; seagulls (who, in this unnamed part of the world, occasionally fly upside down) attend the proceedings like a chorus of ravenous ghosts, waiting for the next round of viscera to be expelled.

Sadly, the operator never does regain control of his/her camera, and the film editor's attempts to make order of this chaos are half-baked at best. There is no narrative voice-over (apparently the filmmakers believe such things to be passé) and as a result we are forced to guess at what it is we see onscreen. Several viewers gave up at about the 20-minute mark, and there was a scattered chorus of "Boo"s at the screening's end.

If, despite all I've said, you still want to experience Leviathan for yourself, there's a trailer for the film here. There are no further VIFF screenings scheduled for this film.



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