Leviathan – Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

“Turner tells a story that he was actually tied to a mast as the storm was raging about him. Now most people don’t believe that… But that’s not the point, actually. I guess like a poet or writer, your job is to use your imagination, to take your imagination there. Turner might not have been there, but his imagination is right there.” – Benjamin Zephaniah: Private view

This is an immersive documentary mainly filmed on GoPros. This documentary takes place on a commercial fishing vessel that’s navigating the shores of the New England coast. The film is shot from the point of view of the fishermen and the crew members, and some of the film is shot from within the sea or sky, using various rigging systems. As someone who works a lot with GoPro’s when producing video art, this has helped expose me to all of the possibilities and capabilities that filming with those cameras provide.

The camerawork throughout this film plunges the viewers in and out of darkness and water. The dynamic nature of life on the violent seas captured on these cameras, presenting first hand experience of the ocean swell. Leaving me feeling seasick despite being on land while watching it. This testament to the visceral experience this film provides to the viewer.


“I am seasick! Wow! This is all over the place. It is obviously a ship in a storm but I just can’t tell which way the wind is blowing… I have family in Jamaica who work on the sea and they have told me they have been in storms, sometimes, they say they don’t know what hit them. They looked up and there wasn’t sky because they were upside down.” – Benjamin Zephaniah: Private View

The great unknown is explored throughout this film as the viewer is plunged in and out of darkness and understanding. The viewer given glimpses of the sea, sky or metal, through flashes of light and momentary recognition of forms, before being plunged back into the abstract darkness. This also helps the editor cut together the footage seamlessly, as the cuts happen mostly on the dip to black.

This could be easily integrated into my filming from the point of view of a rabbit, as the rabbit would be so close to the ground that a dip to black would be easy.

It’s a film with time to spare, like spending 4 minutes observing a fisherman untangling a chain. However, since the shot is so dynamic and it is filmed from the point of view of another crew member who is also busy at work. It captures and maintains the viewer’s attention. The manic oceanic existence is captured through the rapidly, ever changing sea. Many of the shots, even if they are long, contain so many different elements and constant movement. Perhaps mirroring the fisherman’s work, how even if it is slow there is continuous activity and restlessness. While to an outside viewer is random yet fascinating. Through this lack of understanding of what it is that they are doing, it makes the viewer relaxed and mediative.

The soundscape is minimalistic, using the original audio captured by the cameras and nothing else. This helps produce the illusion that the viewer is actually on the ship and makes the experience more immersive. This is something that I have been wanting to experiment with, within my own work. As I would like people to feel want it’s like to be a rabbit. Like how in this film, you end up feeling like you are a fisherman aboard a commercial fishing vessel.


One comment on “Leviathan – Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor”

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