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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

November (2017)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Rea Lest
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £12.95 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 13 May 2019

Hypnotic, fantastical, surreal and aesthetically surd, the black and white, silver nitrate styled November, directed by Rainer Sarnet, shot by Mart Taniel is a child of everyone from Man Ray, Guy Maddin, Bela Tarr. Jan Švankmajer, Abel Gance, Carl Dreyer and Jean Cocteau. As if they all had a sleepover at UFA and somehow consummated this weirdly dark and funny fairy tale. Cineastes will say, rightly, I don’t give Russian film enough progenitive credit. Oh, mea culpa, they would be right. And Bunuel too.

But this film from Estonia with musculature from Poland, has what many Russian films lack: humour. Humour is hard to come by in Estonian history with one of highest per capita death rates of any country in both World Wars. It is one of the least crowded countries in Europe. Also the lowest religious involvement in its historic sociology of any country anywhere. So, when we’re told an unusual popular sport is ‘wife carrying’ we should be alerted to a special culture here. The rueful casting of Dieter Laser (Human Centipede (The First Sequence) and Human Centipede III (The Final Sequence) should wipe away any ambiguity whatsoever.

It is a love story. It is monster story. And did I say, a Plague comedy? The cast members are serious about their dreams and goals. Finding love and surviving the winter freeze. Young Lina (Lest) and Hans (Liik) are going to marry. This is important to Lina considering the Estonian woman/man ratio is 100 to 84. It’s hard to find a good man and, as they say in the forest, good to find a hard man, so Lina is a happy peasant girl. But Hans becomes infatuated with a newly arrived young baroness. Lina seeks help with love spells and potions and the local forest shaman is ready to help.

Pirouetting through this social scene are the kratts, supernatural servants made from sticks and bones who caper about doing bad things to your cattle if you don’t put them to work. One of the kratts reminds me a bit of Crow from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). The Kratt practical and computer effects are flawless. Not so for the snowman though.

When the Plague comes there is a defence and I share it with you so you will be prepared when the Devil brings it to your door. ‘Take your pants off and put them over your head. The Plague will think we have two asses and won’t dare to touch us.’

Taniel’s imagery is unique, superlative and a grand affirmation of the black and white realm. Watching without subtitles, it is possible to ‘get’ the story through its pictorial fulsomeness. There is a sequence where the ordinary world of Lina looks up to a firmament of lovers boating on a sunny, spring day river -- A celestial universe that interacts with the people in the shivering reality underneath. The upper tier is like a Monet painting in silver lucent three dimensionality and is a jaw-dropping achievement.

November has been a festival sensation. Eureka is to be thanked and praised for this 1080p art. The kratts will approve, I’m sure, and not hurt their cattle.


John Huff

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