One of the most inventive, magical, and funny films of recent international cinema, November is wondrously & deliriously original. You will not have seen another film like this - ever. Based on a best selling Estonian Novel from 2000 by Andrus Kivirahk Rehepapp ehk November, November is a beguiling delight that has to be seen to be believed.
Summing up November is like waking from a fever dream and trying to write down everything that happened. Almost by putting any words down on paper makes November seem less special.
However, this wouldn’t be a review without trying to sum it up, so here goes.
Young Liina and Hans are two young peasants who live in a run down village in the woods with their families and other village folk. Liina is besotted with Hans but when Hans becomes entranced by the arrival of a visiting baroness, Liina is pushed to one side, and has to turn to Witchery to try and get Hans to notice her.
Meanwhile, the Dead turn up to take a meal with their living relatives and have saunas that turn them into human sized Chickens. Death, or The Plague, turns up as a young woman, who transforms into a goat who then transforms into pig, but if you wear your trousers on your head, Death will look the other way.
If you want a servant, you can make one and bring it to life with the help of the devil. By selling your soul, the devil will put the soul into a Kratt, a supernatural servant made from discarded bones, tree branches, and rubbish…but if you don’t make the Kratt work, it’ll kill you.
Still with me? Good.
There is so much here, and I haven’t mentioned half of it; wolf transformations, talking snowmen, crazy old hags, a man baking his excrement into bread as a love potion, a cow being lifted into the air by a pissed off Kratt, the list goes on. This is a film that shows how everyone will steal from everyone else, without regret; there is no honour here, only despair.
Director Rainer Sarnet‘s unique, hypnotic, beguiling film is very very strange, and wont be for everyone, especially those that just like their movies ‘blockbustered’ but for anyone that likes to take a chance on new cinematic voices, this may be one for you.
Having just seen 1952’s The White Reindeer by Erik Blomberg, I would not be surprised if Sarnet and his amazing DP, Mart Taniel’s black and white photography was inspired by this film, along with some of it’s themes. In the accompanying booklet by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, she speaks of Sarnet and Taniel shooting the majority of the film in the lush greens of summer, yet by using Infra-Red cameras, they are able to get beautiful blown out whites with the overexposed brightness, along with the crisp blacks to make a film that looks absolutely gorgeous in every shot.
Many of the actors in the film are non-professionals, again harking back to those The White Reindeer influences, but every character in this film (from Rea Lest’s beautiful performance as Liina to Dieter Laser – of Human Centipede fame – as the Baron) are perfectly played, and all characters are beautifully realised, even if some like the Devil are played comical, almost buffoonish.
The strange creatures, the Kratts are brought to life in puppet fashion and it didn’t surprise me to find that the director Sarnet’s background was in Animation, and reminded me of the stop motion surrealism of Jan Svankmajer.
The music by Michal Jacaszek and sound design for this film almost hits the heights of the visuals, but this is a film that sells itself on being magically weird and surreal. It is never uninteresting, and is a tour de force of foreign cinema at its best. This is a film to show people purely for how visual cinema can be, and justifiably won numerous awards for its cinematography at various festivals.
It is a shame that the only extras to feature on the disc are 2 trailers, and the aforementioned booklet as the North American release has test footage, a visual essay and the first ever Estonian short film among the extras. I wanted to dive further into the world of November, but perhaps knowing too much behind the scenes would spoil what to me was a near perfect feel for a film. I like weird, and this was weird as hell, but I couldn’t turn away, even for a second.
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD
- Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio (on Blu- ray)
- Optional English subtitles
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas