Oscar 2014: Leviathan is Russia Entry for the Foreign Language Film Award

Russia has choen “Leviathan” as its foreign-language entry for the Oscars, an artistically smart but politically surprising turn.

Director Pavel Chukhrai, who sits on the Russian Oscar committee, told the TASS News Agency that the decision was made after the film scored a majority vote.

A dark satire on life under Vladimir Putin, the film was directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, and in many ways, it is a loose retelling of the Book of Job, in which an ordinary man must grapple with his faith in the Russian state.

The 142-minute work is the director’s most accessible and naturalistic film, using everyday charactersin contemporary Rusia.   Sony Pictures Classics will give the film a limited domestic release starting Dec. 31.

The deadline for foreign-language submissions is October 1.  About a week after that, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will unveil all the entries, which so far number about 60. A short list of nine titles will be unveiled before the five Oscar nominees are announced January 15, at the same time other Oscar categories are unveiled. Oscar ceremonies will be February 22.

“Leviathan” was awarded a prize for best screenplay at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The film will get a wide release in Russia, with its swear words bleeped out, since they violate a new law forbidding obscenities in films.

Since 1992, Russia has been nominated for five foreign-language Oscars, winning for the 1995 “Burnt by the Sun.”

Before that, the Soviet Union had been nominated for an additional nine between 1968 and 1984, with three wins.