November spawned a monster
- November review by WS
I had the good fortune to see this at Leeds International Film Festival and I hope it will go on wider release in 2019. Whether you choose to see this lurid tale of golems, shape-shifters, satanic pacts and bleeding crucifixes as merely an exercise in sensationalism, an anti-romance, a celebration of Estonian national resilience, or an oblique criticism of our own present-day fetishisation of wealth and technology, you certainly won't find it unmemorable.
It appears to owe little to the conventions of Hollywood or Western European genre films. Certain elements stand out which are perhaps more reminiscent of Polish, other Eastern European or even Asian cinema. The action scenes, which tend to be abrupt, with little build-up or aftermath; more emphasis on atmosphere than character development; the predominance of close-ups and half-shots for filming the principal characters; a cynical world-view; and the deployment of very dark and understated humour, to the extent that it's hard to tell whether some scenes are meant to be funny or not. The evocative high-contrast monochrome photography is evident from the stills, the score is outstanding too. Anyway, it's great to see such a tiny country (population 1.3 million) punching above its weight by making such a high-quality film.
9 out of 9 members found this review helpful.
Original and fascinating film
- November review by TE
Packed with vivid images and huge inventiveness.
This is an unsanitised representation of medieval peasant life, full of superstition, deprivation and the humour of bodily functions. The story jumps from scene to scene and there is plenty of evidence of the director's background in animation film, not least in the eerie creations known as 'kratts'.
The film is a bit like a shamanic-psychedelic version of Bergman's 'Virgin Spring', with Breughel and Bosch thrown in for good measure.
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
Weird and beautiful! (Mild spoilers...)
- November review by NP
From the moment this film begins, the audience is assailed with images that are so exotically bleak, we wonder how they were created. Whether computer-enhanced, or purely some exquisite cinematography doesn't really matter; what emerges is an immediate assault on the senses that bathes the viewer in atmosphere. And it is fair to say that atmosphere does not let up until after the final credits have rolled.
It is true to say that, at its heart, the plot is a thin one. In a nutshell, it concerns stoical Liina (Rea Lest) and her battle to be noticed by handsome Hans (Jörgen Liik). But if you are looking for a story of love and longing, it won't get much more unusual than this.
Based on the novel 'Rehepapp' by Andrus Kivirähk, 'November' is steeped in pagan Estonian folklore, with werewolves, magic, spirits, and lots of stealing. Filmed in beautifully stark black and white, Director Rainer Sarnet (who also adapted this) ensures that every scene is poetically framed in such a way that what emerges is one of the truest forms of cinematic fairy-tale (albeit very dark) I have ever seen. Central to this is the notion of the 'kratts' - surreal, mythical-looking creatures made from bone and wood and metal, who are summoned to perform tasks for the villagers, from menial to magical. They look ridiculous, but convincing and, with no saccharine set-pieces, command a very real melancholy - and humour.
One of the very first things we see is one of these ungainly, impossible creatures as it appears to attack some livestock. The unfortunate creature is obviously distressed, and we fear for its safety. What actually happens, however, defies and exceeds our expectations - which is a trick the film manages to pull off many times throughout its run.
At a little under two hours, it is a challenge to weave such delicate imagery successfully throughout, but due to many moments of surprise, as well as outstanding beauty, 'November' accomplishes this. Dark, brooding and peopled by characters with faces as gnarled and fascinating as the landscape around them, this film gets a mighty 9 out of 10 from me.
It's a keeper.
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.