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“Leviathan,” a Russian film which is a modern-day retelling of the story of Job, has received international critical acclaim, winning the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film on January 11, and receiving a nomination for an Oscar in the “Best Foreign Film” category. The movie also garnered the prestigious Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival last May.
But Russian Orthodox clergy and activists are not happy with the film’s portrayal of Russian culture, politics, or church life.
Some, including Kirill Frolov, the head of the Russian Association of Orthodox Experts, are calling for “Leviathan” to be banned from Russian theaters and for the Russian state to invest in creating an “Orthodox Hollywood,” which would produce films favorable to Russian faith and culture.
“‘Leviathan’ is an evil film, and there should be no distribution for evil films,” Frolov told Izvestia newspaper. “We’ll ask the Culture Ministry not to let the film appear in cinemas, and urge them to create an ‘Orthodox Hollywood.'”
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, also criticized “Leviathan,” telling Interfax on Wednesday that the film conforms itself to the worst Western stereotypes of Russia.
“The writers probably wanted to please the West with these notions of Russian vodka, messy licentiousness, a terrible state system, a Church that is also terrible — such myths about Russia are mimicked very well out there,” Chaplin said. “I’m not surprised that the film is very popular in the West.”
Western film critics say the negative reaction is predictable, as the “tough, theatrical drama reconfigures the Book of Job into a damning indictment of the Putin presidential government, while also yielding more universal themes of humanity, corruption and, well, yes, alcoholism.”
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