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Released: 2013

Directed By: Lucien Castand-Taylor/Verena Paravel

Starring: Brian Janelle, Adrian Guillette

Certificate: 12A

Reviewed By: Robbie Cooper (

Two artists associated with Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, create this experimental documentary that focuses on a North Atlantic fishing vessel using several portable waterproof cameras.

The absence of any narrative or any cuts to interviews with crew members really leave you to your own senses with this film. A harsh purity. You realize right away that you aren’t simply watching an episode of The Deadliest Catch. The vessel drifting through the black night might as well be a Ghost Ship. The resonating sound of clanking steel. The sounds of chains being pulled up and down. Muffled voices reverberating across the deck. In between the crashing waves on the ships deck you may even see a ring of cigarette smoke appear and quickly fade into the black night. The constant presence of airborne creatures flapping through the air like winged demons. The camera cuts to dead fish sliding across the floor, their eerie eyes staring straight at the camera like they are stuck in a momentary purgatory before they are beheaded. Their discarded parts will soon wash out of the ship’s sides, and of course a camera will be there to capture it. Quite often the camera hangs for extended periods of time, creating a certain entrancing feeling but keeping you alert. And yet, in the midst of all of the darkness there is something truly alluring to Leviathan.

It’s a Hell barge that punishes the open seas. A soul grabber of sorts. The nameless workers gruel through their long shifts, like orange-suited Angels of Death. There aren’t any smiles being spread around. They don’t need to utter any words to show that their job is demanding. Close shots of the Captain’s face show the toll the sea has taken. The other cuts to the various cameras mounted throughout the ship also give you a chance to change perspective. At times you feel like one of the ill-fated fish laying on the metal surface, waiting for the doom-bringers to end it all. Then you become one of the many flapping seagulls desperately trying to get their piece of the pie. Soon after you become one of the ships crew, basically lending a hand to lowering buckets to the belly of the vessel where the catch will be stored. There’s a lot of moving parts that feel like a collaborative supernatural flow is at work. In a sense it’s just the food chain at work. But even the sea surrounding the men feels unforgiving, almost as if everyone on the boat is stuck in some kind of purgatory. It feels like a ship that may never return to harbor. When the periodic daylight strikes it feels perturbing. Even when it does strike it feels like the sun only shines for a couple of hours before quickly fading to pure black again. Leviathan is a spooky, hypnotic work of art that puts you in a trance, only to leave you with aural memories of metal hitting metal.

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