Directed by Rainer Sarnet
Estonian with English Subtitles
on Dual Format from Eureka Entertainment/Montage Pictures
Lina, a teenage peasant girl in rural Estonia, is planning to marry her beau, Hans. However, their relationship is threatened when Hans becomes besotted by the visiting baroness. Distraught that he has found love with someone else, even if it’s not reciprocated, Lina seeks help from the local witch to help him fall in love with her instead. Elsewhere in the village, the dead are returning to their former homes for something to eat whilst villagers are doing their best to avoid a similar fate though trying to cheat the devil isn’t the best way to go about it…
Ah… NOVEMBER. A film that has been described as “weird as fuck” by Rolling Stone and words similar to that effect by critics and fans around the globe. If you want a film that is delightfully batshit yet comprehensible, then you’ve found it. Where else could you possibly witness a tripod of bones, a scythe and a cow’s skull rotating to traverse ground, drag and pull a cow out of its barn before being helicoptered into the air and carried across land by the same possessed farming implement that has decided to turn itself into a drone. You’re probably thinking “what on Earth are you talking about?!”. NOVEMBER is a hard tale to describe to someone but thankfully the trailer gives a very good overview of what this film is about.
Described as an Estonian fairy tale, NOVEMBER is set in a time and place where farm hands, called Kratts, are crafted through the binding together of inanimate objects that, once given a soul and a purpose, will perform the tasks its master sets it. It will even talk, grumble and urinate, and, if you’re not careful, try to kill you if you don’t keep it in its place. Souls for the kratts aren’t just summoned from thin air though. They must be bought from the devil himself and he expects a blood sacrifice in exchange for an entity to possess the tool. In a harsh land where its people mainly eat bark, owning a working kratt can mean the difference between living a comfortable life and starving to death. The hunting talents of a kratt make them a highly sought-after piece of kit.
Though the kratts are captivating to watch, the main focus of the film is the love triangle between Lina, Hans and the Baroness. The latter character is hardly ever present in the movie but the love Hans has for her almost feels like a third person. This infatuation fuels Lina to try and win back her man, by any means necessary, for if she doesn’t she may have to marry her father’s sweaty, older friend; a man she has no desire in being intimate with nor married to. The film explores the lengths both Lina and Hans will go to be closer to their love and how that changes their relationship.
Outside of troubled romance, we see how the villagers deal with the threat of the plague that has come to wipe them out. This is by far one of the most funniest moments of the movie as the plague can apparently take any form to trick the villagers. Not shy in using farm animals, we see some very cute but apparently deadly creatures attempt to conquer the peasants but in retaliation they have a trick up their sleeve… or should that be ‘undergarments’.
NOVEMBER is weird and whimsical and makes no apologies for being so. It’s unique idea covers so much ground and is beautifully presented within its quirkiness that it doesn’t feel like an effort watching it. Usually, I have trouble connecting with these types of films but I found NOVEMBER utterly captivating to the point I’ve purposely gone out of my way to tell others about it. Dressing up a simple idea of unrequited love in this poetic fashion works incredibly well and the filmmakers should be proud of what they’ve achieved on screen. The blend of humour and drama is managed perfectly with a story that grips you thanks to the performances from the leads Rea Lest (Lina) and Jörgen Liik (Hans) as well as strong supporting roles from the rest of the cast.
With its playful yet artistic execution, I have no doubt that NOVEMBER will charm its way into the hearts of many film fans out there, as it has mine.