The Bull Nikolay – ★★★★
While watching Leviathan it struck me how much the leading actor Nikolay (Aleksey Serebryakov) looked like a young Richard Harris. There is also a similarity with the famous Irish play “The Field” which saw Harris playing the Bull McCabe for its onscreen adaptation. Both men have a strong sense of the land and what belongs to them but in Leviathan, Nikolay’s actions are much more noble and just.
Nikolay is embroiled in a battle with the local mayor who wants to claim his land and pay him a paltry fee. A lawyer friend Dimitry (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) tries in vain to help but has some intelligence on the mayor that he wouldn’t want seeing the light of day. The Mayor (Roman Madyanov) is distraught as an election is only around the corner so he turns to his priest for guidance. Caught up also in the mess is Nikolay’s wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) who must endure the feeling of isolation as her husband takes on the might of Russian bureaucracy.
The film unfolds with a patient, measured pace allowing us to witness the levels of corruption at work – and no matter where Nikolay turns to he is met with hostility and contempt. Depressing and frustrating at times, we see the age old story of one man trying in vain to rail against the system and fight for what is right.
All the acting is outstanding, especially that of Roman Madyanov as the mayor embodying everything we in the west have come to think corrupt Russian politicians represent. Elena Lyadova is fantastic as a woman adrift and alone in the nonsense of male posturing and violence. While the director and writer Andrey Zvyagintsev is certainly passing comment on the corrupt institutions of church and state at work within his home country, he is also throwing light on the habits of his people. Much like the Irish, he shows how Russians have an unhealthy fondness for vodka.
While set in a small coastal town in the Barents Sea, Leviathan is a universal story which will resonate with many people – not only in Ireland, but around the world.
On limited release in Ireland from November 7th 2014