A scene from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's LEVIATHAN. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
Collaboratively presented with the Harvard Film Archive, Visual and Environmental Studies Department, and Woodberry Poetry Room, the Carpenter Center presents a reading by poet Jorie Graham followed by a screening of Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor's Leviathan (2012, 87 min.), and a conversation with the filmmakers, Graham, Haden Guest, Director of the Harvard Film Archive, and Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography.
Leviathan is an unruly yet cerebral film that borrows its name from Melville and Hobbes but is itself also something of an oversized and paradoxical monster: at moments thrashing and untamed, at others brooding and meditative. Made with instinctive intelligence by two filmmakers far out at sea, armed with multiple cameras—many lost to the waves—Leviathan is a radical engagement with the ocean as a living entity and ideal, an ecosystem rapturously romanticized and violently plundered. Whether turning with the fishes in the dark night waters or burrowing deep into the bowels of a ship, Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s omnivorous cameras channel the raw energy of the ocean and contemplate its magnitude in the cultural imaginary.
Leviathan was instantly celebrated and controversial at its Locarno debut and, as with all paradigm-breaking films from The Flicker to Russian Ark, equal claims of motion sickness and rapture were made. Time has cooled that fevered debate, and Leviathan is now recognized as a classic documentary and important first expression of that larger, urgent project imagined by Paravel and Castaing-Taylor and by the Sensory Ethnography Lab as a whole: to invent a mode of cinema able to speak and see with the same intensity and truth as a painting or poem, while also engaging bold ideas and observations about a world in endless and seemingly overwhelming flux. Text by Haden Guest, Harvard Film Archive.