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Directed by Rainer Sarnet
Written by Andrus Kivirähk (novel), Rainer Sarnet
Starring Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Arvo Kukumägi, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Heino Kalm, Meelis Rämmeld, Dieter Laser, Jette Loona Hermanis, Jaan Tooming, Klara Eighorn, Ene Pappel, Ernst Lillemets, Sepa Tom, Tiina Keeman, Heino Paljak, Mari Abel, Maria Aua, Mart Laoväli, Aire Koop, Aksella Liimets
Find out more about this film here!
NOVEMBER is a vibrant, enchanting, and often harrowing fairy tale like nothing you’ve ever seen. Seeped in German/Estonian folklore and based on the book REHEPAPP, if you dare take a chance with this art house masterpiece, you’ll find yourself encountering a snowman that spouts romantic tales, plagues, screaming pigs, white faced ghosts, witchcraft, the Devil himself, lycanthropy, and the incomparable Dieter Laser. Rainer Sarnet’ NOVEMBER is THE VVITCH if made by the offbeat director of DOGTOOTH/THE LOBSTER Yorgos Lanthimos.
At the heart of NOVEMBER is a love story between two star crossed lovers, Liina (Rea Lest) and Hans (Jörgen Liik), the only two young folks in a village full of impoverished and superstitious people. In this world, witchcraft, curses, and devilish practices are real and commonplace. It’s a world where people will sell their own daughters for a loaf of bread and decadence is as far away as heaven itself. When Hans encounters a young Baroness (Jette Loona Hermanis) at church, he instantly falls in love, breaking the heart of young Liina, who consults a witch to cast a spell to win Hans heart. At the same time, Hans contacts the Devil to find a way to win the Baroness’ heart. Of course, these dealings with infernal forces never end well, and this fairy tale romance has a difficult home ahead of it.
First and foremost, this is an absolutely gorgeous looking film. Done in rich blacks, whites, and greys, NOVEMBER never feels like it has a limited palette as there is a richness in so many tones captured in the German village and the surrounding wilderness. The land is covered in twinkling snow and trees swaying in the breeze. The people are soot covered and grungy and the supernatural beings are distinguished by coloring the ghosts completely in white or those falling from the plague completely in black. Sarnet allows the black and white camerawork to really convey the concept between good and evil, natural and supernatural, and chaos and order and every frame is mouthwatering for the eyes.
One aspect of this film that made me laugh, sit back in awe, and even feel real feelings of woe for is the magical creatures known as Kratts. Cobbled together by any kind of trash available, a Kratt is a mystical servant that is awarded to a family in need of some kind of physical labor. That’s right. Even these impoverished folk in the village have a lower class that they solder together and boss around. Functioning much like droids from STAR WARS, these crude mechanical creatures make up some of the most memorable scenes in NOVEMBER. I loved every moment these crude monsters were on the screen and kind of hope Sarnet returns to this world so that we can see more of them. The Kratt effects work, which seem to be made up of seamless CG mixed with practical mechanics and it looks absolutely staggering.
But that’s not the only thing that should steer you towards this fantastical world. The acting in this film is top notch. I feel the young lead who plays Liina, Rea Lest, has big things ahead of her. She gives a fearless performance as both a broken hearted damsel and a woman struggling to survive in a poor and rough environment. Lest is instantly likable the moment she appears and her plight is what makes every aspect of this story, fantastical or otherwise, enthralling.
The film also highlights some great performances by Liina’s love interest, Hans (Jörgen Liik) who is boneheadedly, but lovably dumb. It also features the oddity that is Dieter Laser as the Baron, who seems to perversely enjoy the fact that a young village boy is trying to seduce his Baroness. Laser isn’t the out of control madman that showed up in HUMAN CENTIPEDE III here. In NOVEMBER, Laser has very few lines, but simply uses his visage and presence to give a small, but memorable performance that enriches the weirdness of the entire film.
You’re not going to find anything like NOVEMBER out there. It’s full of whimsy and enchantment. At times, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Other times, it’s breath-takingly beautiful. It’s one of those tour de force films that takes one through a myriad of emotions by the end. NOVEMBER is an art house fantasy horror film, so there’s a level of absurdity and nonsensical dreaminess that permeates the film, but I was in the film’s spell from beginning to end.