26 February 2015

Film in Bangor

Everybody who didn't shut me up in time has heard me complain that Bangor doesn't have a cinema. And it's true; there isn't one! The nearest specimens are in Holyhead and Llandudno. Poor show! But Bangor clearly does have a university. And universities have big rooms with seats, and a screen at the top end. And fortunately, the university realises the potential of such a set-up. And one day I got an email pointing out the screening of an interesting-sounding film on an evening I was available. Great! I drew my office mates' attention to this, and they all thought indeed it looked like an interesting film. So we went!

The film shown was "Leviathan", a Russian film about an unemployed chap in a slightly dubious marriage and with a stroppy teenage son, who is trying to fight eviction. (Spoiler alert: I will disclose how that ends.) The home of him and his forefathers is at a rather nice location, and the local authorities have their eyes on it. And they manage to find an excuse to boot him out. He bravely tries to fight it, but he's up against money, power, corruption, and everything that can bring against a simple villager. It's not looking good. But he has a card up his sleeve; an old army friend who has become a lawyer in Moscow. This chap comes over, having gathered a whole lot of compromising information on the leader of the evicting pact: the local mayor. And together they try to fight for what they think is right.

The film poster

In Hollywood it would probably work. But this isn't Hollywood. The villager's wife considers her unemployed husband whom she clearly isn't too fond of, and who might well get homeless soon, and she sees a handsome lawyer from the capital, and before you can say "not such a good idea" she is in bed with him. He seems quite happy with a casual shag, but doesn't seem to be equally happy to run off to Moscow with her. And from there it spirals out of control. The newfangled lovers get found out and beaten up, and the mayor figures the best response to blackmail is violence, and he manages to communicate his desire for the lawyer to bugger off and leave him alone in rather convincing ways. Exit lawyer. Which leaves the wife no choice but to go back to her husband, whom she didn't want anyway, but whose affections seem to be extra painful after she has had a dream of getting away from them. And it clearly gets too much; she drowns herself.

The whole film was recorded on the Kola peninsula; mostly rather far inland, but the scenes involving the sea (from which the film poster is a still) were filmed on the north coast; the above is a Google Maps image from the scarred but beautiful landscape up there.

This event creates two more nails in the coffin of our struggling protagonist; his wife's best friend is grief-stricken and wonders if it was murder. It wouldn't be the first time a husband who finds his wife shagging one of his mates would resort to such measures. And the mayor of course greatly welcomes this possibility of having this nuisance put behind bars for many years. Exit villager! Upon which, in a bit of a Mme Butterfly-esque twist of fate, the couple that had suggested the murder in the first place offer a sanctuary to the stroppy teenager son. And the house gets bulldozered to the ground. Fight the system in Russia? Better not try...

After all that (and the many, many litres of vodka that get consumed in this film) we needed a bit of a breather. We headed for the pub, to have a bit of a relaxing chat. It wasn't the happiest of films, but it was very good to sniff some culture in this slightly barren place. With friends!

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