November (2017) – Review (en)
November is a dark fantasy love drama, an occult fairy tale from Estonia, which you shouldn’t miss.
Estonia, Poland, Netherlands
Novel „Rehepapp ehk November“ by Andrus Kivirähk
A she-wolf drinks from the icy water on the boggy shore of a small lake, then moves on, first to roll in the snow and finally to move off. An abrupt scene change follows, to a young, sleeping woman. A third change of scene, panorama-like, on a mansion surrounded by bare trees on a large estate. Suddenly a strange thing, made of metal rods, pipes, strings, knives and an ax, with the skull of a cow, appearing almost like a giant pair of scissors, turns into the picture. It takes its way to a homestead. There it smashes a stable door and moves into the stable, where a cow is caged. The cow is confused but curious, approaches the thing, sniffs – and a metal chain wraps around the animals chest and neck. The animal is forcibly pulled out of the stable by the thing. It rotates ahead – and raises with the cow into the air. After a crash landing, in which it loses the skull, both are in front of a humble cottage, from which now an old farmer emerges. Lovingly he leans over the animal, kisses it dearly, takes its skull, drags the cow along behind him for a few steps – and is pulled down by it. He gets up again – and is almost killed by the thing. Lured out by the noise, a young girl and a young man come out of the cottage; she frees him from the things grip.
„Give me work!“, says it and spits in the peasant’s face.
„Go, make a ladder of bread!“, he replies, kicking it.
„What is wrong with it?“, asks the young woman irritated, as it crawls away, still headless.
„I don’t know. Maybe it’s the rain. Damn, I put my best work materials into the thing. “
Curious as they are, the farmer and the girl follow the thing, to watch it. It stares as headless as not understanding, wilder and wilder, from a piece of bread onto a ladder that leads to the hayloft – and explodes.
„Beautiful. Just like the Christmas trees in the church!“, says the the girl, gazing in amazement, as the things body parts fall down burning.
These are the first six minutes of »November«, a production, that is Estonian from the heart. If that was already too much or too weird, stop reading right here. Because… it just gets more peculiar. However, those who give the sometimes very bizarre film a chance will be rewarded with sometimes divine pictures of a world that is probably completely unfamiliar to them. It’s not just the first six minutes, they are representative for the whole movie.
The young woman is called Liina – and she is a werewolf. The name of the young man is Hans. Liina has fallen in love with Hans, who only has eyes for the daughter of the local landowner. He is a German baron and is hated and despised – and even robbed – by most residents and his servants as well. The Estonian population also uses such creatures as the described thing. This is called „Kratt.“ „Kratts“ are household ghosts in Estonian mythology who constantly perform tasks for their masters – and woe if those ghosts are without work. However, an impossible task also means their end. They are made by their masters out of household goods, a skull, sometimes even snow as well as other utensils. However, Kratts are not only helpful servants, but also a pact – between their masters and the devil, sealed with blood. According to the motto »Do you make a Kratt, the devil conclusively gets your soul« – or you trick the devil and take blackcurrants instead. It is not important whether you trick, cheat or steal, it is only important that you survive the cold, harsh winter. Mythological things like Kratts and the devil or even the souls of the deceased belong naturally to the daily life of the population. Just as normal as the handling of the traditional »pagan« rites is the handling of the Christian religion, but perhaps in a more playful way, as the girls commentary shows. For example, they chew the »Body of Christ« during the Holy Mess and spit it out again afterwards, to reuse it for bullets, so that those bullets become unerring. The movie has a good sense of humor. But as I said, it is strange, if not completely bizarre.
The novel »Rehepapp ehk November« by Andrus Kivirähk, a bestseller in Estonia, must be as bizarre as well. Rainer Sarnet wrote the script and directed this movie. However, it is not easy, if possible at all, to follow the entire plot, mainly because of the partially dissolving narrative structure. This may be due to the novel it is based on, which is considered unfilmable. Basically, filming a novel is always a difficult task and the more complex the novel, the more difficult it becomes to film it. Perhaps it is also due to the low budget of this Estonian-Dutch-Polish co-production; German film subsidising bodies refused to fund it. Maybe you should know the novel and have an understanding for the Estonian culture and mythology, to better understand what is going on. Or you just let yourself drawn into the beautiful black-and-white images that make the film a visual experience – if also elusive – and don’t think about the rest any further. Above all, the cameraman must be praised for his work. The film has a fabulous atmosphere, somewhere between dirty-hard and mystical. For those strengths, it’s well worth watching the movie.
Many of the actors are unexperienced , some even without any experience, which is sometimes noticeable. But the cast looks the part. There are two actors, who stand out, Rea Lest as the strong female character Liina and Dieter Laser in his small role as German Baron. However, I would have liked a larger part for Dieter Laser. He does not need – and neither has – many words to breathe life into his character; he manages to bring the baron to life through his facial expressions. After all, the winner of the »German Film Prize« plays his part with the routine of fifty years of film and theater experience. In an exclusive interview (in german), he told us how he got his part and what he thought about shooting the movie.
A fantastic movie, somewhere between occult fairy tales and fantasy love drama. A work that will certainly not be liked by everyone and that belongs to the kind of film that either gets loveable understanding or scornful head-shaking, but in any case, it won’t be forgotten quickly.
Bildquelle: November © Homeless Bob Production