A golem constructed of scythes and other farm equipment rolls across a landscape. It soon arrives at a farm where it promptly steals a cow. How does an amalgamation of living farm tools steal a cow? Well it simply wraps chains around the poor beast and then takes off into the air, flying its fresh bounty back to its master. This is how November starts and it doesn't get any less weird from there.... and I loved it. To get an idea of what this film is like, you should definitely check out the trailer.
I'm a sucker for folk lore and this gem of a film from Estonia really hit the mark for me. Written and directed by Rainer Sarnet, this film was Estonia's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2018 Academy Awards.
November also took home Best Cinematography in an International Feature from the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, an accolade that you won't question once you see how beautifully this film was shot in black and white. Sarnet has stated in interviews that he wanted the film to evoke the look of early 20th century photography of the regional farmers and their homesteads. The muddy farmscapes and dilapidated huts of the villagers stand in stark contract to the regal finery and ornate furnishings of the baron's manner. The black and white cinematography really elevates the film and gives it a classic horror feel.
The previously mentioned golems are called Kratts and to get one of your own, you must simply meet the Devil in the woods and trade him your soul (or trick him). Voila, your farm equipment comes to life and it does your chores and carries out your bidding. The downside is that if your Kratt ever runs out of work to do, it'll probably come after you and try to kill you. Also, if you give your Kratt an impossible task, it will freak out, catch on fire, and then explode. The Kratts are brought to life in this film by puppetry (I believe) and the end result looks great. They were my favorite part of the film and I love that this odd bit of folk lore from Estonia is now being shared with the world.
The Kratts and the Devil are not the only fantastical elements in November, there are also werewolves, ghosts, and the personification of a plague. However, all of these creatures take a back seat to the main story which revolves around Hans, the handsome village boy, who is infatuated with the Baron's daughter and is painfully unaware of how much poor little village girl Liina pines for him. While the love triangle presented in this tale may be traditional, the black magic and supernatural elements definitely give this tragic film a unique angle.
The acting is good across the board. Dieter Laser (Human Centipede) may ham it up a little bit in his scenes as the Baron, but the rest of the characters very much feel like a part of this supernatural and muddy world.
If there was one nitpick I had about the film, it would be that the story doesn't quite rise to the level of the other elements presented to the audience. There's so much going on in and around the edges of this film that a traditional love triangle narrative feels a little stale. Viewers may get a little impatient when the focus of the movie pivots back to this portion of the story.
If this review and the trailer intrigues you, I whole-heartedly recommend that you check out November when it becomes available in your area or on VOD. It opens in NYC tomorrow (February 23) and in LA on March 2. We'll make sure to post an update if it rolls out to more theaters or suddenly becomes available to rent at home.