November (2017) is a visually stunning exercise of folk and witchcraft as well as a dark tale about love, nevertheless it exhausts more than it entertains.
Dark screen. A clanking sound foreshadows the appearance of what seems to be a self-sustainable tripod walking-machine, constructed from random shed tools. The strange living creation steals a cow – literally catches it – and then turns into a helicopter to carry the animal. As the thing finally lands at its owner’s farmland, the topping is its metallic voice when it asks 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). And this is just one of many wonderfully bizarre pieces of the puzzle in the film of Estonian director Rainer Sarnet.
What is November (2017) about?
November (2017) 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.
The opening scene starring the clanking fella Kratt made my mind shatter into pieces. Kratt appears in more forms than the one I’ve described, and the villagers practice all kinds of magic. Some summon dead relatives during a grim occult ritual, others talk to witches and turn into animals. Magic and witchcraft are omnipresent in November (2017).
November (2017) 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 (2017) shows, the more ambiguous it gets and the less sense it makes plot-wise.
November (2017) is a pot, where ideas are inadvertently overflowing
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 at some point. Her subplot alone is enough to tell a full ninety minutes of script. At least to me, because Sarnet evidently thought otherwise.
The entourage of the leading couple is also involved in numerous episodical plot lines that further complicate things. To enumerate all of the characters that are given their five minutes, would constitute quite a challenge. This rabble, although nothing but the story’s background, consumes a lot of director Rainer Sarnet’s attention. While it builds the oneiric, immersive depth and reality of the world for November (2017), the consequence is that tiny loose ends multiply.
At times, Sarnet looks for humor (at which he succeeds 50/50 to be fair), but just minutes later deploys an artillery of horror fireworks aimed at his audience. The more diverse these scenes become, the less coherent is the film’s aesthetic and rhythm.
November (2017) is gorgeous to look at
Lamentable that is, because November (2017) 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 startling and squeezes all of the juices out of the film’s moody, folksy atmosphere and setting. The music by a Polish composer Jacaszek adds a lot of the oneiric swagger too, therefore giving November (2017) an eerie, uneasy touch.
Despite the glamorous technicalities, November (2017) was a tiring experience to me. The creativity of Rainer Sarnet is incontestable, but a complete lack of order causes this strange indie darling to be a 2-hours long, intrepidly auteur mayhem.
November (2017) – Culturally Hated or Loved?
Though stylistically awe-inspiring and beautifully auteur, it is too deeply immersed in building the climatic aura that also forgets an injection to amp up the sleepy tempo.
Hate Grade: 4.5/10
Director: Rainer Sarnet
Writers: Rainer Sarnet, Andrus Kivirähk
Starring: Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Arvo Kukumägi
Music: Michał Jacaszek
Cinematography: Mart Taniel
Are you into occult and oneiric movies like November (2017)? Check out the following films:
- The Lighthouse (2019) – a black-and-white climatic horror; deadly serious but with a wink at the audience (analysis here)
- The Golem (2018) – an Israeli horror based on a Jewish tale about a creature summoned to protect the Jews from hostiles (review here)
- Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse (2017) – an incredibly unnerving film about witchcraft set in the 15th century Europe.
- And here’s a full list of awesome occult-themed horrors