“Shit, I’m a fish!” my classmate exclaimed three minutes into watching a movie trailer. We were in the middle of our public anthropology class, watching different trailers and trying to understand what methodology and perspectives certain directors were using to problematize anthropological topics in a way that a layman can understand.
Her reaction was quite similar to mine – halfway through watching the same trailer on the big screen in class, I all of a sudden had felt as if I could smell fishy water. The scent of rot was filling up my nostrils, together with the salty notion of fish.
At the same time, I felt oddly attracted to the cinematography of the video. While it was obviously disgusting, and seemed a little bit like the filmmakers accidentally dropped their camera and then later realized this was actually nice footage, it cannot be doubted that this is a work of art, grusome and appealing at the same time.
Leviathan, a “documentary horror film” by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, is all about departing from a human-focussed way of telling stories, and helping viewers emerge into the story the documentary wants to tell from the other perspective. What better way is there to see the horrors of corporate fishing, than through the eyes of a fish? The official website of the film writes:
in the very waters where melville’s pequod gave chase to moby dick, leviathan captures the collaborative clash of man, nature, and machine. shot on a dozen cameras — tossed and tethered, passed from fisherman to filmmaker — it is a cosmic portrait of one of mankind’s oldest endeavors.
The version of the trailer above is specifically made for anthropology students. The version that is usually shown to the public or on YouTube is slightly different, but no less disgusting: