Leviathan ★★★★½

Relentlessly chilly, although echoing with a restrained heartbeat, Leviathan is a grandiose and heart-wrenching take on Orthodox religion and the corruption that weaves within its system and those who attend. Andrey Zvyagintsev (I'm laughing at myself trying to pronounce his name) paints an epic picture of genuine characters, incidents of fate, and masterful sequences of delicate restraint and wispy visual interactions.

Each frame is finely tuned, with Mikhail Krichman's cinematography tackling intimate portrayals of troubled family dynamics and desolate landscapes with an almost omnipresent view. The imagery here, at many moments, feels as if God is sneaking a peek through the majestic clouds.

The direction goes hand in hand with this view, favoring wide, expansive shots over closeups and narrow framing. Zvyagintsev even showcases multiple huge moments from the back seat of cars, shoving the audience into the happenings with visceral flair and graceful sorrow.

Leviathan stuns not just because of its images and its focus, but because of every performance contained within. Not one actor felt out of place or incapable to keep up with the material, and that is perhaps the film's greatest strength. With such a humane and deeply felt screenplay, exceptional performances were essential for the themes to resonate clearly and without feeling false. There's no doubt that every performer in Leviathan understood this, and it shows.

Overall, Leviathan is a shivering and grim drama that commits to a sincere yet isolated tone in order to ponder horrific truths. It is at once sad, bleak, and gloomily authentic, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't riveted and practically gasping for air throughout.

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