NOVEMBER: Something Wicked and Enchanting from Estonia

Thanks to Eureka Entertainment and their new label Montage Pictures, we are now aware of the existence of November (2017), a beautiful, captivating and bewitching B&W movie from Estonian director Rainer Sarnet, adapted to the big screen from the novel Rehepapp ehk November (2000), written by Andrus Kivirähk. The key roles are distributed among Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Arvo Kukumägi, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Dieter Laser and Jette Loona Hermanis.

Rea Lest and Jörgen Liik.

November begins with an odd sequence, one might say, and “odd” is a very light term for this case, actually. A creature made from some metal pipes walks in, takes some poor cattle from the neck with some chains and flies away with it! At this point, as a viewer you have to decide what to do: Either you will lose interest or wait just a little bit longer to see how gorgeous the movie gets. Thankfully, we love cinema and choose the second option: We take this beautiful movie seriously, only to see what a poetic cinematography it bears. 

Kratt / Kratid

Plus, if you thought less of the opening sequence, well it’s also because of your (and mine) lack of knowledge: You see a caped man suck the blood of a young girl, or you see an old lady flying on a broom and you’re OK with it, but you see a strange metallic creature fly away and it makes you laugh? Well if it does, it’s because you don’t know what a kratt is. 

A kratt.

Kratid (plural) are part of the Estonian mythology, they are magical creatures made from household objects. The person who assembles it becomes the owner of the kratt and in order to give life to this creature, the owner has to make a deal with the devil. The other important thing about kratid is that they have to be kept working constantly, otherwise they misbehave against their owners. And if you want to get rid of your kratt, you have to give him an impossible task to achieve, so at the end the kratt takes fire and literally “dies trying”. 

Jette Loona Hermanis and Dieter Laser

The cinematographic beauty

Besides the folkloric roots of November, we should definitely talk about the astonishing, masterful cinematography of the movie. The characters, their makeup and costumes, beautiful Estonian landscapes and castles, the ever-changing camera angles, close-ups, special effects, the uncanny music, all of them participate to create a visually stunning poetry. The use of camera movements and the gestures of the actors are generally slow-paced, there are also some slow-motion sequences, all of these add to the picturesque, beauty of November.

Is it just Black and White?

We talked about the movie being Black & White, but actually it’s an understatement, because November has every possible shade of white and black, and it is also used in the movie a different technique: the saturation or even the over saturation of the colors. So the black is often too black, even tenebrae-like; and the white is blinding. The combination is of course, charming.

Overall

Grosso modo, November can be described as “the story of some villagers trying to get a living in every possible way, getting help even from the supernatural, it is also described the impossible love of a teenager”. Well, these are true, but it’s like saying “it’s the story of a battle between a mad man and some windmills” about the subject of Don Quixote. It is, but at the same time, it isn’t. 

November is about life, this dark matter that fills our existence, about this “mal de vivre” that came out from the catacombs of Paul Verlaine’s mind, it’s about the horror of being alive, that Kierkegaardian feeling we all have, and it’s about mankind, this at times pathetic, at times marvelous creature that dwells on this dark blue planet for two million years. 

What November made us think of?

  • The paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • The movie “Day of Wrath” from master Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • The movie “Color of Pomegranates” from Sergei Parajanov
  • The VVitch by Robert Eggers

Source Material

The home video release of November is done from Eureka Entertainment under their label Montage Pictures on May 13th, 2019 and as we always experienced from our past buys from Eureka, this is a beautiful edition containing both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film in gorgeous quality. There’s also a 20-page booklet with lovely movie stills. But most importantly, the booklet has a 7-page-long essay by the film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, entitled Tales of Kratt and Heartbreak which is, needless to say, beautiful and highly informative.

Buy November DVD from Amazon UK

The books of Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (amazon)

H. Necmi Öztürk

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