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Leviathan – 15/12/2013 @ The Watershed, Bristol.

December 16, 2013

From looking at the poster of what turned out to be an experimental documentary, it looked like it was a horror film about a mythical sea beast. What I got instead was many random images of what goes on in a commercial fishing trawler. There was no narration, no dialogue, no music, just abstract images and perspectives of men working, shots of ropes and chains and people doing stuff with them, lots of dead fish and men cutting them, some cool underwater shots and shots of seagulls diving into waves. There is a random scene of a man having a shower and also a long shot of a man falling asleep in front of the TV. Hmmm.

I am familiar with this style of documentary. It is the type of thing which people will take what they want from it as there is nothing to manipulate the audience with.  There were some interesting perspectives into a world I have next to know knowledge of and some shots that are strangely beautiful and some strangely disturbing. The sound design gave it some atmosphere. However, that does not take away the fact that this documentary was boring! My attention started to wander a lot, I nearly fell asleep a couple of times, and I was not sure what the filmmaker was trying to achieve at all. I came away from it not having learned anything apart from the fact that I would hate to work on a fishing trawler. I new that anyway, but did not need to be bored for nearly an hour and a half to confirm this. It was definitely unique, but an ultimately dull experience!


From → Film Review

  1. I’ve heard many similar comments on this film. Do you think we find it boring because we are use to a different way of engaging with the screen?

    I’ve taken a look at what else we might learn from Leviathan here:
    Is there a purpose behind the fishguts? Maybe not directly, but I think so.

    Let’s discuss it!

    • It might be that we are used to a more structural, informative type of documentery. There might have been an ultimate purpose behind the fish gutting like the barbarity of mankind at the top of the food chain. Also mans co-operation and battling with the vast ocean and open air which at times can be violent and deadly. It certainly was unique in just at observing what was going on, however, there were long takes of what seemed to be nothing of much interest on the screen and the man taking a shower I felt was ultimately pointless. I just never got much from it apart from vague philisophical waffle. There was a mixed reaction from the audience, some liked it, some hated it much more than I did (although I did not ultimately hate it, I found it rather arduous). I would be interested to hear what you and other people got from it.

      • Personally, I found this film incredibly nauseating and felt sick long after leaving the cinema. Yet beyond consideration of enjoyment, this film seems to me very successful in the creation of an aesthetic which has great implications upon filmmaking and spectatorship.

        I think you’re right that there are themes and issues which this film seeks to raise. Yet for me these are not the film’s victory. The film cultivates an environment as it exists in a certain time and place, providing the illusion of first hand experience which is incredibly valuable for documentary film (if not all cinema) despite being merely an illusion. Therefore I see my pseudo-seasickness as an unlikely reason to vie for the film’s brilliance.

        This kind of aesthetic, and specific for of spectator engagement has all manner of consequences (both good and bad) for film as a historical document, and for a ‘cinema of experience’. I wont go much further here, but if you’re interested, check out my article where I delve much deeper into such implications:

        I appreciate these developing discussions and hope for more!

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