Leviathan (5 stars)


Remarkable, thought-provoking documentary filmed on fishing trawler off New England coast

Anthropologists Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel have created a remarkable cinematic experience in Leviathan, a documentary shot in one night on a fishing trawler off the New England coast.

In the same seas that inspired Moby Dick, these two filmmakers have utilised innovative filming techniques to create a visceral portrait of fishing. By attaching cameras on the ends of poles and extending them into the boat’s nooks and crannies, the filmmakers immerse the audience in the sounds and textures of the trawler, and in the process capture the most astonishing images. In one extended shot the bodies of limp, slippery fish pile up, bulging eyeballs staring deadly into the lens. In another, with the camera submerged in the ship’s wake, we catch sight of bright red starfish suddenly forced into view as the ship surges forward.

This isn’t your typical observational documentary. Castaing and Paravel’s images are frequently surprising, at times taking on an other-worldly quality that pushes the film into experimental territory. Yet there are some interesting themes being explored here too: our long and ambivalent connection to the ocean; the romanticism and adventure associated with being at sea; and both the beauty of the natural world and the contrasting grotesque elements of hunting. This is sublime, thought-provoking filmmaking.

GFT, Glasgow, Fri 29 Nov-Thu 5 Dec.

Leviathan Trailer


  • 5 stars
  • 2012
  • France / UK / US
  • 1h 27min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Lucien Castaing-Taylor/Verena Paravel
  • UK release: 29 November 2013

Sometimes abstract documentary shot in the North Atlantic about the travails of the fishing industry.