Leviathan

“End of days or the beginning of new ways of seeing? A work that has the power to ignite long-dormant synapses.” — Melissa Anderson, Village Voice

Year: 2012
Country: France
Running time: 87 mins

Producers/Photography/Editors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel
Sound: Ernst Karel, Jacob Ribicoff
DCP

With: Brian Jannelle, Adrian Guillette, Arthur Smith, Christopher Swampstead, Clyde Lee, Declan Conneely, Johnny Gatcombe

Festivals: Locarno, Toronto, New York, Vancouver, Amsterdam Documentary 2012; Berlin, San Francisco 2013

The cinema becomes an immersion chamber in this intensely visceral account of commercial fishing aboard a New England fishing trawler. The filmmakers, Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass) and Véréna Paravel, place remote cameras on sloshing decks and into the heaving sea itself to submerge us in fish-cam Armageddon. 

Leviathan, a product of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard, offers not information but immersion: 90 minutes of wind, water, grinding machinery and piscine agony. The experience is often unnerving and sometimes nauseating, because of the motions of the juddering, swaying hand-held camera and also because of the distended eyes, gasping mouths and mutilated flesh of the catch. At other moments, like when the film tracks the flight of gulls across the night sky or plunges into the North Atlantic water amid a cascade of starfish, it has a dreamy, enchanted beauty… [The filmmakers are] committed, above all, to capturing the profound strangeness of an ancient and embattled way of existence, for man and fish alike.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times