One of the strongest contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan - a rare gem that's utterly depressing but so powerful at the same time.
Set in a small town near the Barents Sea, this story tells of how Mayor Vadim Shelevyat (terrifically portrayed by Roman Madyanov) bullies Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) because he wants the land his house is on. Desperate, Kolya turns to his former army comrade Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) for legal help, but Dmitri proves unreliable.
The film is devoid of sharp colours; its bleak tone matches Kolya's situation. It is a well-acted modern-day version of the Bible's Job, except Kolya himself is rash and flawed, and the church is as corrupt as the state. It depicts the Russian system as so unjust, it's impossible for the little guy to win.
Zvyagintsev seasons the sombre tones with dark humour. It is intense, full of long, emotional scenes like the one of Kolya's son weeping near a whale carcass.
Full of symbols and opaque dialogue, this is a difficult film to watch, but those who take the challenge will be well rewarded.
Contains mature content