Edinburgh Bites: Leviathan
Mike Scurfield catches Leviathan at the Edinburgh International Film Festival...
Looming into view through rough, erratic seas, this incredible sensory film set on a fishing trawler in the North Atlantic is a unique, gripping and at times disorienting experience for the eyes and ears. Winner of the prestigious Michael Powell Award at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel bring the experience of commercial fishing to the screen with haunting candour.
Featuring no interviews or grounding material, we immediately find ourselves all at sea, thrust into an arresting sequence shot from a boat worker’s perspective. Giant cogs crank and machinery whirs, as the simple act of untangling two chains becomes an all-encompassing feat from which the camera cannot turn away. This structure - long scenes shot from incredible viewpoints - is a feature throughout. Take the startling moment when we’re suddenly thrown into the catch container and buried by slimy new arrivals from the ocean depths. Or the scenes that gaze longingly upon the meticulous, hypnotic process of gory fish preparation. Later, our camera sloshes back and forth on the hull floor, and then, in one truly awe-inspiring sequence, bounces in and out of the water as squawking seagulls glide overhead.
The beauty of its visuals, captured using micro lenses for the perspective shots, and cameras on poles for the underwater sequences, are outdone only by the sound mix. A vast majority of Leviathan’s power lies in its wondrous, booming acoustics. Whether thunderous engine noise, undecipherable worker yells, thrashing waves, or flapping fish; from the claustrophobic but peaceful underwater scenes, to the intense cacophony of noise topside, for 87-minutes the theatre comes alive, rapt inside a deafening aural wonderland.
Leviathan is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it rewards those who can stomach its constant swell and drone with a cinematic experience that enthrals, envelopes and resurfaces long after you’ve headed back to shore.