One reviewer jokingly suggested that the alternative title of “Leviathan” could be “David Lynch, Gone Fishin’, ” and there’s some truth to that: While the film is a documentary of a New Bedford fishing trawler working the North Atlantic, the disorienting, woozy aesthetic and soundtrack of industrial and overloaded GoPro camera microphones is nothing if not a Lynchian nightmare sequence. Yet, however surreal “Leviathan” is also true to the experience: It’s a slaughterhouse at sea, basically, with fishermen hacking away at their catches as funnels of blood pour off the deck.
At its best, the film works like “Koyaanisqatsi” (1983) — albeit without that film’s awe-struck tone — using carefully chosen images to induce a meditation on man’s relationship with nature. There are some profound moments, including eerily beautiful shots of seagulls following the ship like vultures, or a lone severed fish head, staring accusingly at the camera as it sloshes back and forth on the deck. But the filmmakers make it tougher on the viewer than it needs to be, with repeated shots that are little more than burbling flows of murky water. Nevertheless, this is a landmark in modern experimental cinema.