We all like to look at the sea but what if the sea looks back? Leviathan, the impressive film by filmmakers and anthropologists Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, radically reverses the perspective and makes us experience what it is to be the sea.



01/03 20:00 KAAP Ostend

Leviathan begins in medias res, on the deck of a fishing trawler that’s ploughing through a dark, unnamed ocean at the first light of dawn. Clad in primary-coloured rubbers, the crew are heaving away, hauling in a load. Who are these men? How long have they been out at sea? What exactly are they doing and how exactly are they going about it?

This film happens to be a documentary but it is the polar opposite of a dry information-dump: wave-lashed from beginning to end, the lens often bejewelled with beads of seawater, Leviathan isn’t ‘dry’ in any sense of the word.

There is no explanatory narration, and the only music is diegetic, snatches of heavy metal whose double-bass roll seems the most appropriate soundtrack to the mission at hand. The closing credits will finally state that we’ve been off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts – in the waters where Melville’s Pequod gave chase to Moby Dick. As for the rest, we’re left to find out for ourselves, to get our own sea legs.

Leviathan chooses an immersive – or rather submersive – approach. It’s as though we’ve been handed a pair of waders, thrust out onto the rocking and rolling deck and told to get to work ourselves.

The film is at once bruisingly physical and seemingly weightless. This weightlessness is attributable to Castaing-Taylor and Paravel’s use of the GoPro camera, a rough-and-ready waterproof model which first gained popularity with surfers and extreme sportsmen for its lightweight durability.

At times, the GoPro is used to penetrate and probe, elevating the smallest of incidences into something mythic. Elsewhere, the imagery is simply, bluntly majestic. Castaing-Taylor and Paravel allowed the camera free range of motion on all sides of the ship, to skiff back and forth between water and sky, both teeming with life. Those black flocks with their clapping wings! Wow, the sea is full of starfish! The idea is not to show you a way of life, but to show you how that way of life might feel.

The film is a vertigo-inducing study of the human relationship to the sea and a cosmic portrait of mankind’s place at the edge of wilderness. Leviathan is ethnographic – Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor are filmmakers, artists and anthropologists working at the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University – but above all, this is stunning cinema, and proof that there are more things in the sky and sea than you can imagine, that there are new images waiting to be discovered.


SUPPORT — We currently work without subsidies, so your support is more than welcome and literally brings light to the screen:

BE80 7340 4532 5277     BIC: KREDBEBB

Payment reference: ‘Gift’.

Gifts above the sum of € 40 are tax deductible.
A gift of € 100 will only cost you € 55.

Artistic coordination: Anouk De Clercq, Godart Bakkers
General coordination: Ditte Claus
Artistic team: Eric de Kuyper, Xavier Garcia Bardon
Production team: Bob Mees, Jef Declercq, Johan Opstaele, Noah Heylen
Communication: Cynthia Vandenbruaene
Graphic design: Michaël Bussaer. Webdesign: Dominique Callewaert.

With the support of Auguste Orts, CINEMATEK, KAAP, KASK School of Arts Gent, Onderzoeksfonds Universiteit Gent, Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds.

Whoever walks in Ostend today is confronted with a fantastic eclecticism: a brutal grey apartment block exists next to the glorious Thermae Palace. The mighty, almost Stalinist, building of De Grote Post dominates the Hendrik Serruyslaan. A former department store houses a museum for contemporary art. Belle-époque houses are hidden in the quiet but stately streets.

In 2017, one void struck artist Anouk De Clercq: that glorious film culture of Henri Storck, James Ensor or Raoul Servais had disappeared from the streets. With the closure of the Rialto cinema, the last independent cinema from the Ostend cinema circuit also disappeared. Against such an extraordinary backdrop, with the sea as a large projection surface for images, stories and histories, that is such a shame.

And so the idea of Monokino ripens: one room, marked by an equally fantastic eclecticism, where cinema can be itself again. One room where long and short films, film classics, auteur cinema, video art, experimental films, animation, or the work of young makers can find a place. Monokino shows, questions, responds, engages in conversation, invites, welcomes, puts in perspective. Monokino is a place of, by and for people from Ostend, for professionals and enthusiasts, for young and old, for those from here and those from there.

The films that Monokino wants to show don’t only live on the screen. They also spread between residents, spectators, and makers. In that sense, Monokino is also Kopfkino: a mental cinema, where images get the chance to live and multiply.

That’s how Monokino drifts nomadically through those eclectic streets of Ostend and settles in the heads and hearts of the people of Ostend. Soon it’ll moor for good.

Monokino wants to drive cinema into the 21st century and illuminate the adventurous side of film. While we strive for a permanent place as anchorage for cinefiles from Ostend and beyond, Monokino operates as a nomadic film platform.

The sea is Monokino’s favourite projection surface for images, stories and histories. In anticipation of our next screening, we’ve started to collect a list of films in which the sea plays a main or supporting role. Can you think of a film that’s not already on our list? We’d love to hear about it via info@monokino.org.

{{ film.title }}
{{ film.director }} — {{ film.year }}