Russian drama “Leviathan” made history by becoming the first film from the country to win a Golden Globe since the fall of the USSR but has still not been released at home.
The film — a harrowing drama assailing abuse of power in today’s Russia — won the prestigious best foreign language film award in Hollywood on Sunday but has been held back across Russia after officially falling foul of a controversial law banning swearing.
One of the film’s producers told AFP Monday that the picture — set finally for release in Russia on February 5, after first hitting screens in France back in September and the UK in November — was “not easy” to distribute in its home country.
“It is a film about Russia that is tragic and lucid and it is not easy for distribution even if it rests on the pillars of Russian culture from Boris Pasternak in literature to Andrei Tarkovsky in cinema,” said producer Alexander Rodnyansky. Leviathan has already won the best screenplay prize at the Cannes film festival for writer and director Andrei Zvyagintsev, whose previous works include the acclaimed 2003 drama “The Return”.
Highly anticipated in Russia — where it has been put forward by industry insiders as the country’s entrant for the Oscars — the film’s release has been held up while the film was reworked to conform to a law passed last year that bans swearing in films. Due to the number of swearwords in the gritty production, the film has had to completely redo its soundtrack.
Producer Rodnyansky told AFP that the win at the glitzy Golden Globes event “will help to attract more Russian viewers, who are the target audience.” Despite the delay, Russians on social media sites noted Monday that many in the country have already succeeded in viewing the uncensored version of the film online.
Seen by some as a searing indictment of President Vladimir Putin Russia’s, the film — which was part funded by the state — has previously drawn criticism from Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky. The Kremlin keeps a tight rein on information in Russia, controling most of the news media and, increasingly, online activities. Criticism of Putin is extremely rarely aired.
But director Zvyagintsev has played down allegations that authorities blocked the film due its subject matter, saying that the production’s intention was “certainly not to confront power.” On Monday, Medinsky praised the film’s director for his “professional skill” and highlighted the roughly 500,000 euros ($590,000) of state backing that had gone into making the movie.
The victory “is an excellent motivation for Russia to reclaim its status as a world power of cinema,” Medinsky was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. The last Russian film to win a Golden Globe was Sergei Bondarchuk’s “War and Peace” in 1969.