If you thought Deadliest Catch was unnerving, imagine experiencing the show aboard the ship, peering through a pinhole, trying to make out what’s moving around among the dripping nets, inhaling salty night air, underneath a cloud of scavenging sea birds.
That’s what it feels like to experience Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s otherworldly new experimental documentary Leviathan. For 87 minutes, viewers are plunged into a world off its axis, searching for a center of gravity, and only finding it in brief stolen moments of industrialized respite.
Castaing-Taylor and Paravel, who previously impressed the doc circuit with their shepherding “sensory ethnography” Sweetgrass, created this violent tone poem with handfuls of miniature waterproof GoPro cameras, which they affixed to man and beast in recording the efforts of a fishing trawler near New Bedford (i.e. Herman Melville territory).
Though it establishes the foreboding mood even before any images have flashed upon the screen by quoting from the Book of Job, Leviathan oftentimes feels as though it’s hearkening to more gothic, rolling forms of powerless terror. Because Castaing-Taylor and Paravel insist on avoiding nearly all elements of exposition, instead choosing to plunge their audience directly into the thick of their downright illicit-feeling imagery.
Given the boat is involved in not just the mechanized, mass capture of fish, but also the gory process of cleaning them, the effect is in that uncanny valley between mesmerizing and deeply disquieting. If the atmosphere of the living world submitting to machinery suggests Eraserhead-era David Lynch, the GoPro-distorted flashes of viscera suggest avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage adapting H.P. Lovecraft.
Though far from environmentalist fodder, Leviathan unflinchingly depicts an ongoing battle between man and natural order, during which one can imagine Cthulhu calculating the violations that will demand satisfaction.
Leviathan plays at St. Anthony Main Theater today at 2 p.m. and on April 14 at 9:40 p.m.
Other Highlights: Friday, April 12
The Last Time I Saw Macao. With a tribute to Josef Von Sternberg built into the title, you can bet this Portuguese “part noir mystery, part personal essay” will boast sumptuous textures and glammy emotions. (4:15 p.m.; also playing April 14 at 2:45 p.m.)
Lessons Of Darkness. For many, the height of director Warner Herzog’s documentary mood rings, this 1992 landmark re-envisions the towering Kuwait oil field fires as part of an endless, destructive cycle, all set to stunning classical music. (5 p.m.; only screening)
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. The singular Mathieu Almaric, Michel Piccoli and Anne Consigny star in legendary French New Wave director Alain Resnais’s dual-edged sword on the nature of performance and spectatorship. (6 p.m.; also playing April 14 at 9:30 p.m.)
Throughout the entirety of the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.