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I've never felt compelled to counteract negative reviews on this site before, but in the case of Leviathan I couldn't help myself. If I had come to this film expecting a traditional documentary on the commercial fishing industry, I may have been contributing my very own one-star critique right now. Then again, if I'd thought this was going to be a traditional documentary on the commercial fishing industry, I probably wouldn't have watched it in the first place.
Leviathan is definitely experimental (though experiential may be a better descriptor for it.) It offers no narration, no facts or figures, no conclusion or agenda. The only dialogue we hear is, for the most part, distorted to the point of abstraction.
What Leviathan does offer is an immersive, hypnotic experience. The sounds and images are alternately nightmarish, surreal and eerily beautiful. Even the rudimentary glimpses into the lives of the fishermen on board are rendered at an odd reserve, remaining as enigmatic as the seabirds we see throughout the film, crashing into the black waves. Experiencing this movie is like being transformed into an alien observer; the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Of course, everyone's entitled to an opinion, and I can completely understand why a person might hate this movie. It truly is a Rorschach blot of a film, allowing the audience to engage with it from almost any angle imaginable. I think that's where Leviathan's beauty lies. Anyone interested in what movies can show us should at least give this one a shot.
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