About the film:
How did you decide on the title of the film? It hints at themes and a socio-historical context beyond the documentary itself.
Leviathan was just our provisional, working title. Somehow it stuck. We’re both wary of over-explaining the film or the title. Both because, as Alain Cavalier once said, ‘it’s next to impossible to make a film that’s equal to the intelligence of its spectators,’ also because it’s precisely the intelligences of its spectators that make a film.
You used innovative methods to capture the images and sound. Was there a lot of risk involved in this approach? Did you expect the final results?
The biggest risk is slavishly, formulaically repeating what one has done before. Cinema, like all art, only advances by overthrowing received conventions, in order to reveal the world anew. We tried to do this with both image and sound. In this case, we were after, in the image track, a new coupling of objectivity and subjectivity that had not occurred before in cinema. And we wanted the sound to be as immersive and intense, as acoustically untamed and monstrous as the image, and as the sea, boat, and elements are themselves in reality.
You both have backgrounds as anthropologists yet people feature only occasionally in Leviathan – was that a deliberate decision?
Yes. Anthropologists suffer from various maladies, including an excessive attachment to humanity, and also a terribly debilitating respect for meaningful propositionality.
Do you find contradictions in working in the area where observational documentary and experimental film meet?
Plenty, otherwise we wouldn’t be working there. The challenge is not to solve the contradictions, but to create new ones.
Q&A at Edinburgh Film Festival:
Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor
Sensory Ethnography Lab provides an academic and institutional context for the development of creative work and research that is itself constitutively visual or acoustic — conducted through audiovisual media rather than purely verbal sign systems — and which may thus complement the human sciences’ and humanities’ almost exclusive reliance on the written word and quantification. It opposes the traditions of art that are not deeply infused with the real, those of documentary that are derived from broadcast journalism, and those of visual anthropology that mimic the discursive inclinations of their mother discipline.