In the film Leviathan, a family and town are thrown into disarray as the society around them slowly decays. The movie is named after Thomas Hobbes work of political theory where he argues that the only way in which a society functions is through its citizens agreeing to respect a social contract in which they act rationally, basically arguing that society as an entity can quickly erode if those within it choose not to respect its legitimacy. In the film, modern Russia is presented as a society that is slowly eroding due to the nihilistic corruption omnipresent in every sector of life. A corruption that stems from a country that doesn’t seem to care whether it lives until the next day, probably because it has been falling apart for approximately the past half-century. It is a country that is constantly drinking itself sick, a country where Ak-47’s are used for fun at barbecues while depressed women try to protect their kids, and a country that tells those kids their future won’t be any different.
The twenty-first century Russia presented in the movie is a Russia that doesn’t believe in itself anymore. Not one of the characters genuinely thinks the world can get better. Dima, the Muscovite lawyer, and the only character that seems to attempt to follow the law is quickly shown the futility of respecting norms when he is kidnapped by the mayor, and afterward flees to Moscow defeated. He also finds it perilously easy to sleep with his best friend’s wife, showing how quickly a personal ethical code can crumble. This lack of faith in a better Russian future shows just how far the ethos of the country has fallen since the fall of the Soviet Union. A society that, for its many flaws, inspired a strong faith in its citizenry that it was working for a brighter future, a factor that modern Russia is sorely missing.
The unsatisfying end of the movie is what truly shows how fragile it all is. It is extraordinarily easy to frame someone for a murder, especially if the person doing the framing is someone with power (even the measly power of a small town mayor). When normal citizens stop choosing to be beholden to laws and to truth, anarchy, and injustice quickly come out. The only way for a society to function is for the citizen to be inspired by the society’s ideals, and that is something sorely missing from the Russia portrayed in Leviathan.