A film shot on a fishing ship without dialogue, characters, plot, context or even an apparent structure is an extremely difficult sell.
Those willing to take the risk with Leviathan, however, will be rewarded with an extraordinary and purely cinematic voyage as absorbing as anything they’ve experienced on the screen before. Fixing their GoPro cameras everywhere, co-directors Castaing-Taylor and Paravel capture the brutal reality of life on the high seas from myriad perspectives – the fishermen’s, nature’s and that of the ship itself – giving each equal priority.
One moment we are surging forward with the ship’s bow, splitting the raging waters of the north Atlantic; the next we are flying alongside the boat amongst a swarm of ravenous seagulls before being thrown back on deck into a deluge of convulsing fish excreted by giant fishing nets dangling from an unseen above.
The editing masterfully conceals the cuts, creating a seamless and perfectly choreographed sequence of shots that combines with the visceral, relentlessly violent ambient sounds to engender a stupefying ballet that ensnares viewers, leaving them utterly breathless in front of this staggering demonstration of the force of nature, human enterprise and, not least, cinema.
Leviathan | Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel (France, UK, USA 2012) documentary. Starts May 23
Originally published in issue #116, May 2013.