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Leviathan | TIFF 2012 Review

Crustaceans & Coruscations: Castaing-Taylor and Paravel Pairing Offer Hyper-Stimulated Sound and Mounted Moving Camera Experience

The antithesis of a Jacques Cluzaud nature doc, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s sublime, non-commentary type of documentary with horror film like qualities. Detailing humanities’ appetite for destruction in segmented work-shift tasks you’d find on the deck of a fishing vessel, Leviathan is a rare, nightmarish beautifully composed hybrid of the sound and affixed moving camera aesthetic that will remain with you, hook, line and sinker.

The appropriately titled 87 minuter could easily allude to the monstrous-looking vessel platform that robs the ocean floors of precious life, or on the flip side/below the bottom deck could symbolize some of the shapes and forms that are the make-up of the blackness of the sea, or in a larger craftier sense of the meaning, could symbolize the how human civilization was built on a mixture of hard labor and ugly, inhumanly cruel deeds. Sectioned off in portions of what a typical nightshift on such a vessel could look like, this man working with machine vs. nature portrait offers entirely freshly composed vantage points of rubber boots, in-use fishing nets and a collection of separated, then dismembered different schools of fish. It makes for great counter-programming of the world’s worst job type programs and sounds the alarm on just where humanity is at in their ways.

Castaing-Taylor and Paravel use digitally attached range of vantage points – the camera’s eyeline is just as fascinating and interpretation rich when it is tied to a chain or netting as when it is mounted in the ship crew’s cabin or at plastic boot leveled heights. Almost entirely shot in the after dusk hours (is commercial fishing easier at this juncture of the day?), the camera eye is affixed in the most restrictive areas of the vessel and with surprisingly zero sea sickness type aesthetics it also happens to thwart all efforts of relaying some sort of implicit meaning and/or commentary.

In the title credits, we learn of the other beasts that have succumbed to the stress of the seas, and in the end credits we have the names of the manly, tattooed employees and family of fish that we come across – an indexed future R.I.P to several species. With lineage to the experimental films of master craftsman Michael Snow, in just two feature docs, the other his impressive 2009 essay film, “Sweetgrass,” Castaing-Taylor film has built himself a reputation as one of the fields most “versatile” filmmakers experimenting with form and film language.

Reviewed at the 2012 Toronto Int. Film Festival on September 12th, 2012. – Wavelengths programme

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).


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