The Almost Moon and The Leviathan

I really enjoyed Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bonesso I was excited to read The Almost MoonI was disappointed. It opens with a brilliant first line (‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily’). From there it’s downhill.

I think the main weaknesses were both plot and characters. I found it difficult to relate to the characters – it was hard to know what motivated the protagonist, or what choices she was making. The story telling changes throughout the novel, as well; what starts as a domineering mother becomes an agoraphobic one, and it doesn’t feel consistent.

There is a choice the character makes at the end, but it feels detached, from the rest of the novel. I think Sebold picked excellent themes, but hasn’t managed to carry them through.

I also saw Leviathan today. It was an interesting piece; I’m still in two minds about it. On the one hand, there was a lot to like. It’s beautifully shot, and a has excellent cinematography. I’ve never been to Russia, but from what I’ve seen of other countries that border it, the portrayal of a post-Soviet breakdown looked very plausible and compelling; it creates and draws you into a world that’s very different from typical Hollywood.

It tells an excellent story, too – of a small landowner, being forced off the land by a corrupt local mayor. There are other story arcs, too, but this is one of the most important. It’s here that the name of the film comes into play – with two possible interpretations. When I first saw it, I assumed it was a Hobbesian reference, a vision of government structures as all powerful and un-opposable. That’s certainly part of it; the first portion of the movie deals with the futility of a visiting lawyer, who attempts to argue and sue his way to success. What the movie demonstrates is that his ideas are futile; the structures are too inherently corrupt for any attempt within them to succeed.

The second reference for the title is in a similar vein, but draws on the book of Job, quoted by a priest in the movie. The image here, perhaps, is of the state as a dangerous beast – to stand against it is foolish, and it’s best to suffer, uncomplainingly, like Job.

In some ways the film is a little long; certainly longer than I’d expected, and it has a slow, languorous quality that while enjoyable at points, is frustrating at others. But it’s a good movie, and if you have the time and want something a little more meaty, it’s worth seeing. And for context, there’s an interesting interview with the director at The Guardian. 

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