Andrei Zvyagintsev’s film Leviathan wins the best film award at the London Film Festival

A screenshot from the movie 'Leviathan.' Source: Photoshot/Vostock-Photo

A screenshot from the movie 'Leviathan.' Source: Photoshot/Vostock-Photo

Award is the first ever to a Russian film from the top-ranked festival.

Oscar-nominated Russian film, Leviathan, directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, won best film at the 58th London Film Festival, which wrapped late Saturday in the British capital.

The film, which premiered last May at the Cannes Film Festival, also picked up an international film critics' prize the same night at Israel's 30th Haifa Film Festival.

Leviathan, which tells the story of a simple man's futile fight against political power and influence, was the only Russian film in main competition in London. Other films seen by audiences and a jury headed by British producer Jeremy Thomas, included works by internationally recognised filmmakers, including Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's The President, Timbuktu by Maritania-born Abderrahmane Sissako, The New Girlfriend by French director François Ozon, Phoenix by Germany's Christian Petzold, and The Duke of Burgundy by Britain's Peter Strickland.

The festival's first feature competition award went to Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's drama The Tribe, a film virtually without spoken dialogue about a group of deaf and dumb youngsters who communicate thorough sign language.

Sell out screening

Last week's screening of Leviathan in London was a sell out, the festival hall overflowing after tickets for it were snapped up in just a couple of hours. In its review, British internet-journal The Upcomingwrote: “Leviathan has a significant role to fill at the moment. It serves as an important reminder of the similarities between the people of Putin’s Russia to those of us in the west, but Leviathan has plenty more to give: the action and direction are flawless and the barren setting is captured superbly. With incredible talent filling every available role and a plot that only grows in intrigue, it’s difficult to find fault in Andrei Zvyagintsev’s ambitious latest feature. If you have any interest in world cinema at all, Leviathan is utterly unmissable.”

Thomas, commenting on the jury’s decision, said: “We were all very engaged by the twelve films selected for competition and really admired many of them; there were extraordinary stories and impressive images. But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, Leviathan directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev. Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.”

Leviathan will be released in Britain on 7 November; its Russian premiere is due in February 2015.

Russian audiences have to wait

"I hold to the principle that each one does his own job," Zvyagintsev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "I consider my task complete the moment I finish work on the film and I don't interfere in the plans of the producers. This is in exchange for them not meddling in the creative process."

He added that he felt "sad" that Russian viewers would have to wait to see the film, the Russian premiere of which was put back following an earlier decision to open on December 31.

"We begin to resemble the boy who cried 'Wolf!'and run the risk that in the end no one will believe that the film is worth seeing. Indeed, the first release date of the director's cut was supposed to be immediately after [the Russian natonal film festival Kinotavr] in July.

 "Because of this I have complicated feelings. Perhaps my feelings are mistaken: the producers are experienced and have a better feel for the situation. That is why I’ve decided to stick to the principle of division of labour and refrain from interfering in the marketing process of the film."

Biblical story of Job

Leviathan is a creative interpretation of the Biblical story of Job set in modern day Russia, produced by Non Stop Production with the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture and RuArts Art Foundation. Zvyagintsev says the film was developed over the course of more than four years. The film was shot on location in northern Russia and the Kola Peninsula.

The theme of the film is human nature, man’s earthly destiny, problems of love and betrayal, lust for power, forgiveness, revenge, and death. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the natural environment of northern Russia on the shores of the Barents Sea. Last month the film was picked as Russia's nomination for best foreign language film in the Oscars, due to take place in Los Angeles, 22 February 2015.

 

Read more: An intreview with Andrei Zvyagintsev about his movie Elena

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