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A Video Interview With The Directors Of Leviathan

Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor are instructors in Harvards ‘Sensory Ethnography Lab’ which takes as a premise that artists, scientists and academics rely too heavily on words to convey ethnographic experiences. 

For their film, Leviathan, the two documented commercial shipping off the coast of New Bedford in Massachussets – the place from which the Pequod departs in Moby Dick - once the epicenter of the whale trade, now a major center for commercial fishing. 

The film is shot with the miniature digital cameras that are used for extreme sports.  This allowed the film-makers to capture different angles of the experience.   Cameras are attached to the bodies of the fishermen, submerged in the water, flown on high for a gulls-eye view.  The aim, and effect, is to relativize the place of the human within the vast machinery of commercial fishing.

The film is visually and sonically astonishing.  Metal rasps, the sea whines and pops as the camera is submerged into the water.  The atmospheric sounds are dominant  - there are occasional snatches of dialogue, but no narration to impose a logic on the world, no musical score to nudge emotional responses.  In the sound world too, the human elements are relativized within the larger picture.