Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
White on black, these words open Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s Leviathan, a documentary about the commercial fishing industry in the North Atlantic. Although words from Moby Dick might also have been appropriate for a film as poetic and dangerous as Melville’s novel, it’s only fitting that scripture was used, as the film comes at us in biblical proportions—the images unrecognizable at times, yet each guided by one’s own interpretation. The filmmakers wanted to make another film after both experiencing something like post-partum depression upon finishing their previous films (Sweetgrass for Castaing-Taylor and Foreign Parts for Paravel). The result is, literally, a leviathan. After the New York Film Festival press screening for the film, Castaing-Taylor and Paravel sat down with selection committee member Todd McCarthy for a beautiful and significant discussion on Deleuze, Melville, and what went into making this treacherous sea voyage of a film.
You don’t want to miss one of the best Q&As of the festival:
And check out four intense minutes from the film: