AT THE 50TH NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL YOU ROOT FOR THE FISH!
Post, Erica Abeel, September 29, 2012
Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena
Paravel. You ain't never seen a documentary like this. Dispensing with
voiceover, musical score, or explicit argument, the filmmakers spirit us
along on a fishing boat expedition in the dark and gleaming damp of
pre-dawn. It's documentary as unmediated immersion in a world we mostly take
for granted in our fish-eating culture, which appears to be depleting the
ocean. After viewing this vision of the life aquatic, though, you may not
want to rush out to Citarella.
What's on display here is nothing
short of wholesale slaughter as giant nets haul in their Babel of struggling
creatures, lending new resonance to the phrase "take the bait." Such is the
strategy of the filmmakers you're down on the slimy, bloody decks with the
fish regarding the world through their POV. At one point the camera holds on
a fish's lopped off head, apparently somewhat alive, as it lolls about in
the gore. Hell, you root for the fish.
Though rough-going, these
scenes are interspliced with images of jewel-like beauty rivaling abstract
paintings splattered across the night's black canvas. In an indelible scene,
underwater cameras follow gulls dive-bombing the sea. At one point the
camera holds interminably on a slack-jawed, glaucous-eyed fisherman relaxing
below decks. I lost patience with this time-out in real time. Yet after, the
image haunted me as a brilliant reflection of how the slaughter that's all
in a day's work blurs the lines between the human predators and their
victims. As if the living sea exacts its revenge.