Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Can you pull the leviathan with a harpoon, or press down his tongue with a rope?
Can you insert a fishhook into his nose, or pierce his jaw with a barb?
Will he offer much supplication to you, or will he speak soft words to you?
Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him as a lifelong slave?
The basis of a plot is opposition of the hero to local government for the property on which officials have plans. Thus search for location of that property was a key to movies' visual solution. The house had to be destroyed to construct a church, besides this is a central place of all movie. We have unambiguously decided to build it.
Originally the script was happen in middle Russia, without ocean and all that beauty. But later we came to conclusion that we need to find something really exceptional, unique. There was a desire to find the place which the hero loves so, that he is ready to fight for it, even with the cost of his life, the amazing, fantastic place. Long scouts for location in the central Russia had given us nothing and, in search of bigger visual purity, we had moved to the North. We stopped on the very brink of the Kola Peninsula in the settlement of Teriberka. This panorama comprises all artistic decision.
Reality of the set is only achieved by a history behind it. Together with Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oeg Negin we wrote that story, that only visible in art direction. This house has been built in 1920 by Nikolays' grandfather and then was repeatedly completed and reconstructed by his sons, evolving and splitting in different volumes as a cell. That made house more alive, some kind of organism. Other from volumes that story tells textures. All that different materials, patina, traces of use give unmistakable feeling of reality. The house had to be demolished in a shot and we see all its structure. We did not made is as a set, everything was real. For this purpose even all inner structure elements were aged.
Even the house placement is a way to describe hero's characters. It stay apart from others. But it’s not in Russian tradition to live a solitary life, therefore Nikolays' house is connected with the settlement visually, but also was spaced from it by the river. To use that unique location as much as possible and made it recognizable for a spectator, it had been decided to define for the main scenes the verandah which is most opened to surrounding landscape. In order not to loose visually the house under the mountain, its scale is expanded by additional constructions - a garage, the greenhouse, a shed, a power line support, the road. Together they made complicated silhouette that stayed against the background of the settlement, the coasts of the Barents Sea mislaid among mountains. Also it was built keeping in mind the last and most expressive shot with destruction, when the excavator tears off a wall and interior opens to a landscape.
In the top view all parts of the complex stay in line to maximize the scale from side view. From all possible points of shooting they do not cover one another, but stay in chain of objects. Place on a ledge of the mountain means a certain defensive function.
Some big elements were added to the house like boats, cars. We made two roads connecting house with over village. All trees, bushes and mosses on the site we mounted there .
Long before actual construction we made something like rehearsal for it. We wanted to define exactly house orientation, windows heights and scale, overall shape and size of the structure. That was brilliant idea by set builder Nikoly Rybtsev. We prepared so meticulously to get exactly what we imagined, other reason was that the place is 1500 kilometres far from big cities and we would not be able to change something quickly while constructing it.
After the house was constructed we found that photo in local archives. It was an evidence of our right decision. It was standing almost on the same place with the same shape. Of course we hang it on the wall with ancestors portraits, the wall that was teared apart by excavator.
The house, at the moment of demolition.
Teriberka served as an endless source of textures and architectural elements. Here, thanks to extremely active environment with winds and frosts, high humidity, materials grow old extremely fast, creating awesome deep and rich textures. In other side it is mass production wooden architecture, absolutely poor, strict and rational.
The idea of a Leviathan came to us when we were on scout. Some boys told us they had seen a skeleton on the coast. When we visited it, turned out to be small and unimpressive. But the idea arose within us. This later gave the film its title.
The skeleton of a whale was quite difficult construction trial. The chosen place was in a tidal zone, and the structure had to stay there from fall to winter. Despite a lot of metal was used for its creation, skeleton ended up with positive buoyancy. Twice a day water completely covered it and tried to pull it out. On a low tides deep pits were dug to install huge anchors. Construction team settled in a tent on a close shore, it took them one week to finally overcome the problem.
The church has a big platform to walk around. That gave us the chance, without doing church improperly bulky, to keep its scale in a mighty landscape.
Teriberka and the Serebryanskaya road was a source of many other shots, including a prolog and an epilogue stills of the movie. This world is incredibly strong and live, and acts in the movie as the being of endless power, indifferent to destinies of people, fine and eternal.
Director Andrey Zvyagintsev
DOP Mikhail Krichman
Production Designer Andrey Ponkratov
Set Decorator Maxim
Props Alexandr Losovsky
Set Builder Nikolay Ryabtsev