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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Russian Orthodox Church Spokesman Says 'Leviathan' Made for West

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Leviathan has been showered with awards, winning best screenplay at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and best foreign language film at both the London Critics' Circle Film Awards and the Golden Globes.

Next month it is in line for an Oscar. Yet director Andrei Zvyagintsev and his co-writer Oleg Negin's film has split opinion in Russia and sparked a furious controversy over whether it is undermining Vladimir Putin.
Culture minister Vladimir Medinsky has accused it of being a negative film, which promotes "existential hopelessness".

In Leviathan, a bleak portrayal of the character Kolya's struggle against the stifling omnipotence of the Russian state, the characters seem to be drowning in vodka. Kolya is a car mechanic who battles against a corrupt mayor's plans to take away his property.

The film's release in Russia has been delayed until February 5 and it will be shown with swear words bleeped out, the result of a rushed-through profanity law. Some cinemas in Russia's northern states (the film is set in he Murmansk region) have made allegations about being pressured by local authorities not to screen the film.

Medinsky claimed "there is not a single positive hero and the characters are not real Russians," and accused Zvyagintsev, director of the acclaimed 2003 movie The Return, of cynically exploiting anti-Russian feeling to win awards. "What does he love? Golden statuettes and red carpets, that's pretty clear," Medinsky said, adding the film "in its rush for international success, is opportunistic beyond belief." He says it “spits” on Russia’s elected officials.

The Russian Orthodox Church has also weighed in against the film, which shows corrupt clerics, with AFP reporting that spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin had told Izvestia daily: "It's obvious that it's made to cater to a Western audience, or rather to the Western elite, since it consciously repeats popular myths about Russia." He admitted that he had not actually seen the film.

During one scene, the characters go on a shooting trip to celebrate a birthday and they fire at framed pictures of Soviet leaders, including Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin. “Don’t you have anything more recent?” Kolya says, supposedly a reference to Putin, Yeltsin’s successor.

A pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov tweeted that the film is an "anti-Putin cinema manifesto".
Some Russians are amused by the fact that the film was partly funded by the culture ministry. In the Oscars, it is up against Ida (Poland), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania) and Wild Tales (Argentina).

Leviathan has had some support in Russia, however, with popular theatre director Konstantin Bogomolov telling news: "Artists don't exist to beautifully depict Russian birches, Russian meadows and Russian lakes. That's absurd."

Zvyagintsev, 50, who was in America to collect his Golden Globe, says that Leviathan is not a political treatise against the Vladimir Putin regime. “The story is completely universal, not just in a special geographical context but in the sense of time. It’s not about a concrete era,” he said. “It just so happens that the era in which we filmed it bears a little bit too much resemblance to [current events].”

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