Take a Drink: for every human face
Take a Drink: every time something gets cut up
Take a Drink: for seagulls
Do a Shot: sweet tat, bro!
Do a Shot: when a fisherman watches The Deadliest Catch, because of course
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I’m a bit of a documentary fan. I don’t know, after long days of watching superheroes fight, buildings explode, romances implode, psyches erode (in horror films! … okay, I’ll stop) I just want to curl up and watch something that really happened, or is happening.
Or whatever Michael Moore’s yelling about now
Last year was a spectacular year for documentaries, but the one I haven’t seen yet that’s been gaining almost mythical status is Leviathan. Simply put, the filmmakers, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, take a bunch of GoPro cameras and think up the craziest ways to document the life aboard a North Atlantic fishing trawler they can.
The very first thing you need to know is that this isn’t a documentary. If you say you learned anything about anything, fact or opinion, except that the sea has fish, water, and seagulls, and the job’s kinda dirty and also maybe that fishermen like watching The Deadliest Catch, you’re a liar. This is an experimental film, an excuse to use the materials of reality aboard a fishing boat to construct a disorienting, delirious, stunningly beautiful piece of art.
Thus, the joy here is in the imagery, and Leviathan is chock-full of breathtaking imagery. The filmmakers put their cameras everywhere they can think of to capture this footage, then present it as elliptically as they can. Sometimes it feels like the point of view of the Biblical sea beast the title and the verse that opens the film refers to.
What, you thought it was Gim Allon?
At others, it reverses the perspective of earth and heaven, as starfish rain down or the stars and the dark waters congeal once more into the primordial firmament. And in a few, we leave our planet behind, as familiar ingredients combine into something wholly alien, wonderful and disconcerting at once. I feel safe in saying that you’ve never seen anything like this film.
You’re entirely forgiven if your mind starts to wonder (I forgave myself, anyway). There’s an awful lot of just tedious imagery here, too, as scenes drag on long after we’ve gotten the point that cutting up fish is gross or that, yes, that’s water.
To expand on that, and to get more welcome alcohol into your system, long takes are awesome as long as, you know, anything at all’s happening. Sure, those scenes create a mood, and in an actual theater that mood may be anything but boredom. Maybe.
You have to be in a very particular frame of mind for this highly experimental… documentary, I guess, but if you stick with it you’ll see some gorgeous, mind-opening sights that you’ll be thinking about for weeks.