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Leviathan
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Leviathan is bold experimental documentary about life aboard a New Bedford fishing boat. Rather than telling a traditional linear non-fiction narrative, the immersive movie surrounds your senses with impressionistic details.  The film was shot with tiny, waterproof video cameras perched atop crewmen’s heads, below nets full of fish, and right at the ship’s waterline where the waves repeatedly plunge the audience into and then out of the sea. Directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel of Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab capture some sticking images and create a relentless soundscape that successfully transports you to an imagined place where you feel as wet and cold as the sailors on screen. But Leviathan would be more appropriate as a museum installation that could run on an infinite loop in some giant dark room, rather than a 90 minute movie you sit and watch from beginning to end in a theater. As visually interesting as several of the shots are, just as many are flat, repetitive, and uninspiring--which may be the point, as this is a film about working. But then there are those images that dazzle and intrigue because you can’t tell what they are right away, and you want to keep watching until they resolve into something recognizable. These colorful, collage-like shots reminded me of the experimental films of Stan Brakhage, but most of his work was between six and twenty-five minutes long, which is about as much of this type of picture as I’m be able to take in one sitting. Leviathan asks a lot of its audience, and I don’t think it rewards our patience sufficiently.

Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
Produced by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

Written by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

With: Declan Conneely, Johnny Gatcombe, Adrian Guillette, Brian Jannelle, Clyde Lee, Arthur Smith, and Christopher Swampstead

Cinematography: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
Editing: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

Runtime: 87 min
Release Date: 23 May 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Color