Though many watching at home may not have realized it, at least one piece of the Oscar puzzle could have been sealed Sunday night: For the last four years, the winner of the Golden Globe for foreign language film has gone on to win the Oscar in the same category.
So the Globe for the Russian film "Leviathan" may have been a crucial victory. The Polish film "Ida" has been the presumed favorite in the category, picking up critics' prizes and big wins at the recent European Film Awards, including best film.
"Leviathan," directed and co-written by Andrey Zvyagintsev, pulls story elements from the Bible's Book of Job, a medieval-set German novel "Michael Kohlhaas," Thomas Hobbes' treatise "Leviathan" and the 2004 story of a Colorado man fighting against local authorities.
In the film, a small-town mechanic (Alexey Serebryakov) is being forced from his long-time family home by a local mayor (Roman Madyanov) who wants the land for himself. Many have read the film's exploration of power and corruption as an implicit critique of the Putin regime and even expressed surprise that the film was allowed as Russia's official submission to the Academy Awards.
The film won the screenwriting prize at the Cannes Film Festival when it first premiered last year and has gone on to strong reviews and will soon face off against "Ida" at the Spirit Awards.
"The more we think about the fortunate fate of our movie," said producer Alexander Rodnyansky in accepting the Globe alongside Zvyagintsev, "the more we believe that it doesn't matter whether you are Korean, American, Russian or French. A tragic story of an ordinary man who comes face-to-face with an indifferent system is absolutely universal."
Both "Leviathan" and "Ida" made the Academy's short-list of nine films being considered for the five nominations in the foreign language category, to be announced Thursday. Released at the end of December by Sony Pictures Classics, a dependable powerhouse in the foreign language category, "Leviathan" is currently playing in Los Angeles.