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Leave it to our trend-setting friends in Russia to make a movie about a boorish mayor before anyone in Toronto got the chance.

20140901LeviathanAndrey Zvyagintsev (Russia, Masters)
stars 3andahalf9

Andrey Zvyagintsev won an award for screenwriting at Cannes for Leviathan, a character-driven national epic in miniature about Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov), a stubborn homesteader who refuses to sell his land for development, much to the chagrin of the coastal town’s corrupt mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov), who shows up drunk on his citizen’s property with a cocked fist and a bevy of hired goons. Before long, Kolya’s resistance—and decision to call in a favour from his big-city lawyer friend and military junior Dima (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov)—will put not just his land but his whole family in jeopardy.

Aided by a sparingly used score from Philip Glass, Zvyagintsev brings a masterful touch to the material, steadily teasing out Kolya’s Job-like downfall under the eyes of an unmoved God. His hand is so steady, and the actors’ performances so naturalistic, that one is inclined to forgive the last act’s descent into bathos—if not its flat use of Kolya’s wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) as a narrative prop to exact our tears.

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