Leviathan (2012 film)

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Leviathan poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel
Written byLucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel
StarringDeclan Conneely, Johnny Gatcombe, Adrian Guillette
Distributed byCinema Guild
Release date
  • August 9, 2012 (2012-08-09) (Locarno Film Festival)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$76,211[1]

Leviathan is a 2012 documentary film directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University. It is an experimental work about the North American fishing industry. The film has been acquired for U.S. distribution by The Cinema Guild.

The filmmakers used GoPro cameras and worked 20-hour shifts during the shooting of the film.[2]


Rotten Tomatoes reports 84% approval for Leviathan based on 51 critics,[3] and the film also holds an 81/100 average on Metacritic.[4] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star said the film "plunges us into the sights and sounds of this visceral business", using "[t]iny waterproof cameras that could be clipped or rested upon people, fish or objects…to capture the film’s raw images and natural sounds. Edited together into a non-linear and virtually wordless whole, it creates a briny immersive effect that is almost hallucinatory."[5] A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted that the film "conveys the brutal toll that the enterprise takes on the workers and on the ocean, and it could even be read as an environmental parable in which the sea threatens to exact its revenge on humanity. But none of this is explicit in the film, which avoids exposition and context, unfolds almost entirely in the dark and often verges on hallucinatory abstraction. Where most documentaries prize clarity, this one attests to the power of estrangement."[6] Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice opined that "[t]he density of aural and visual stimuli overwhelms—and liberates."[7] NPR critic Stephanie Zacharek was less complimentary, calling the film "a self-conscious tone poem concocted from oblique camera angles, shots held longer than it takes a tadpole to reach maturity and nighttime images enhanced with a psychedelic glow. An alternate title for it might be David Lynch, Gone Fishin'."[8]

The film won the Michael Powell award for best British feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival[9] as well as the Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.[10] It was presented within Maryland Film Festival 2013 as a favorite film of Baltimore-based filmmaker Matthew Porterfield.


Michael Powell Award for Best British Film, Edinburgh International Film Festival[11]

Locarno International Film Festival - Fipresci Jury Award[11]

Locarno International Film Festival - Ficc/Iffs Don Quixote Prize Special Mention[11]

Vienna International Film Festival - Standard Audience Award[11]

Cph:dox - New:Vision Award[11]

Sevilla International Film Festival - Non-Fiction Eurodoc Award[11]

Ridm - Best Cinematography and Best Sound in an International Feature[11]

Belfort International Film Festival - Grand Jury Award[11]

Belfort International Film Festival - One + One Award[11]

Belfort International Film Festival - Documentaire Sur Grand Écran Award[11]

Torino Film Festival - Internazionale.doc Best Film Special PrizeI[11]

Los Angeles Film Critics Circle - Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Award[11]

Independent Spirit Awards - Stella Artois Truer than Fiction Award Nomination[11]

Milan International Film Festival - La Giuria Giovani[11]

Milan International Film Festival - Giuria Audiodoc[11]

Silver Puma for Best Film in Ficuman[11]

True Vision Award True/False Film Festival[11]


Castaing-Taylor has had a connection with the fishing industry due to his father working in the shipping industry.[12] Leviathan was initially planned to be mainly about the fishing industry on the land portion of the process, however it was changed to the sea only due to the change in interest by the filmmakers.[13] The direction of the film was to highlight the contrast between the past and present of New Bedford.[14] The production on land took place at local factories and net/ice production dredges.[12] Shooting took place 200 miles off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts.[12] The area of New Bedford has a history of being the whaling capital of the past and present day largest fishing port in the U.S.[14] Moby Dick also took place here.[14] Over the course of filming Leviathan, Castaing-Taylor got seasick and Paravel went to the emergency room numerous times.[12] Trips on the boat took place of six intervals of two week time periods.[12] Leviathan was shot in two months aboard the boat consisting of six trips in total.[14]


While filming, the director's first camera was lost at sea and they had to resort to their backup cameras, Go-Pros.[14] The images produced by the Go-Pros created afterimages of haunting qualities due to the lack of clarity within the lens.[12] According to Castaing-Taylor, “It activated the viewer’s imagination much more.”[12]


Castaing-Taylor created Leviathan within Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab with his associates and students. The Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) is a Harvard-based lab that focuses on reinventing ethnographic film and documentary.[15] Castaing-Taylor began the lab in 2006 to combine the departments of anthropology and visual and environmental studies at Harvard. He has this to say about the program: “It takes ethnography seriously. It’s not as though you can do ethnography with a two-day, fly-by-night visit somewhere. But it also takes ‘sensory’ seriously. Most anthropological writing and most ethnographic film, with the exception of some truly great works, is so devoid of emotional or sensory experience.” Above all, he added: “It takes what art can do seriously. It tries to yoke it to the real in some way.”[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leviathan (2013) at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Leviathan: the film that lays bare the apocalyptic world of fishing". The Guardian. 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  3. ^ Leviathan (2013), retrieved 2019-11-09
  4. ^ Leviathan, retrieved 2019-11-09
  5. ^ Peter Howell, "Leviathan a fish-eye view aboard a commercial trawler: review", Toronto Star, March 14, 2013.
  6. ^ A. O. Scott, "The Merger of Academia and Art House: Harvard Filmmakers’ Messy World", The New York Times, August 31, 2012.
  7. ^ Melissa Anderson, "Steel Yourself for Leviathan, A Watery Knockout", The Village Voice, February 27, 2013.
  8. ^ Stephanie Zacharek, "'Leviathan': Of Fish And Men, Without Chats", National Public Radio, February 28, 2013.
  9. ^ "Edinburgh gives top award to experimental documentary Leviathan". The Guardian. 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  10. ^ "'Amour' Named Best Film by Los Angeles Film Critics". The Hollywood Reporter. 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "leviathan". www.arretetoncinema.org. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Lim, Dennis (2012-08-31). "Harvard Filmmakers' Messy World". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  13. ^ "'Leviathan': The Fishing Life, From 360 Degrees". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  14. ^ a b c d e "At Sea with the Intense, Immersive Doc Leviathan". Studio Daily. 2013-03-01. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  15. ^ Lim, Dennis (2012-08-31). "Harvard Filmmakers' Messy World". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  16. ^ Lim, Dennis (2012-08-31). "Harvard Filmmakers' Messy World". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-04.

External links[edit]