Leviathan explores life on a commercial fishing vessel in a surreal, ruminative assemblage of shots. With neither dialogue nor narration, this documentary is as much a visual poem as a work of journalism.
Directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel spend two months on fishing ships off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Using Go-Pros, they focus on the minute details of contemporary seafaring: readying the equipment, sorting the catches, gutting the fish, and tossing waste into the sea. They peek into the dark recesses of the ship and plunge below the waves.
Adding to the unique visual aesthetic, the filmmakers linger on long shots, position cameras upside down, and utilize lower-quality lenses to produce obscured imagery. The result is a succession of shots that are simultaneously lyrical and blunt.
Leviathan lays bare the stark, often brutal, conditions that commercial fishers endure. It is also a meditation on nature and humankind’s place in the world.