A visually stunning exercise of folk and witchcraft is a hypnotizing dark tale about love, but it exhausts more often than entertains.
“November” is an adaptation of a novel by Andrus Kivirähk. Lina (Rea Lest) is a young farmhouse girl, who is madly in love with Hans (Jörgen Liik). However, his heart beats for the baroness, who just came to the village and moved into an astonishing mansion, along with her strange father. Lina’s only chance of turning the tides of Hans’ affection is using witchcraft and magic to influence his feelings.
Dark screen. A clanking sound foreshadows the appearance of what seems to be a self-sustainable tripod walking machine, constructed from shed tools. The strange living creation steals a cow, then turns into a helicopter to carry the animal and finally lands at its owner’s farmland, asking in a metallic voice for more work.
This creature’s name is Kratt – an impish spirit that the villagers trade for their obedience (or soul) to a devil that resides at the crossroads in the woods (and totaly looks like a Tim Burton creation).
My mind was blown away after these few minutes, right at the beginning of “November”. I hope you can understand the reason why. Apart from Kratt, which appears in more forms than the one I’ve just described, the villagers can also summon their dead relatives in a form of a occult ritual, talk to witches and turn into animal.
The point is that magic and witchcraft are omnipresent.
“November” is based of a book, which – as I found online among the comments of its fans – is a “bit” wicked, hard-to-follow piece of literature. Sounds about right, because the more “November” shows, the more ambiguous it gets and the less sense it makes plot-wise.
The script, written by the director Rainer Sarnet, tries to glue together an enormous amount of characters, subplots and concepts. Lina and Hans are more or less an orbit for a mass of particles that dance around them. Apart from her fatal love, Lina is “sold” to an affluent man by her father, summons a witch and even turns into an animal. Her subplot alone is enough to tell a full ninety minutes of script. At least to me, because Sarnet thought otherwise.
The entourage of the leading couple is also involved in numerous episodical plot lines that complicate things a lot. To enumerate all of the characters, that are given their five minutes, paints quite a challenge. This rabble, although nothing but the story’s background, consumes a lot of director Rainer Sarnet’s attention. The consequence is easy to forecast – tiny loose ends multiply.
“November” is a pot, where ideas are inadvertently overflowing – a mix of shorts that for reasons unknown are merged together.
At times, Sarnet looks for humor (at which he succeeds 50/50 to be fair), but then two minutes later throws an artillery of horror gimmicks at his audience or a heavy drama punchline. The more diverse these scenes become, the less powerful is the film’s aesthetic and rhythm.
Lamentably so, because “November” is an impeccably filmed story. Sarnet has an incredible vision to share with the audience – through the dark and white palettes, the Estonian countryside is a land of another world, straight out from a fairy tale. The cinematography is gorgeous and squeezes all of the juices out of the film’s moody, folksy atmosphere. The music by a Polish composer Jacaszek adds a lot of the oneiric swagger too, imbuing the film with a unique atmosphere.
Despite the glamorous technicalities, “November” was a tiring experience to me. The creativity here is praiseworthy, but the complete lack of order causes this strange indie darling to be a 2-hours long, intrepidly auteur effort. However, bold directing is one thing, but being effective and consistent in it is different.
Dir. Rainer Sarnet
Hate Grade: 5.5/10
Are you into occult and oneiric movies like “November”? Check out the list of best movies exploring cults!