“Leviathan,” Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s unconventional and enthralling documentary about a New Bedford-based fish trawler in the North Atlantic opens portentously with a quote from the Book of Job. “Upon earth there is not his like,” it reads in part, referring to the dreaded deep sea creature Leviathan, “who is made without fear.”
It is a creature like the great white whale of “Moby-Dick,” pursued by the obsessed Ahab and his ship the Pequod. Here, though, the situation seems reversed. With its repetitive images of netted, gasping, beheaded, and gutted sea life, the film suggests that the beast is the human hunter himself. The trawler and its crew and the rapacious industry they represent embody the Leviathan described in the 17th-century book of that title by Thomas Hobbes, the vast monstrous entity of human civilization to which all things are obeisant and which devours all things.