In an Estonian village, people attempting to survive and love steal from all sources and give their souls away for protection. In a village where werewolves, magic, and disease are everywhere, love is hard to receive and creatures named kratts help and hinder them. What is a soul worth? Does one need a soul to live? To love?
Based on the novel by Andrus Kivirähk, this film by writer/director Rainer Sarnet is a story that mixes many genres and way of telling its tale. Like a dark fairy tale, the film weaves multiple layers of mystery and love in a way that may seem difficult to follow at times, but it all works out in the end if the viewer pays attention. The way the film is built forces the viewer to pay attention or risk getting very lost in the storyline if they miss just one scenes, one small moment. At times the moments feel long and like they may not have a point, but given the story, they do. That difficulty to follow the story and stay invested will vary from viewer to viewer and while some will love having the challenge, others will drop out.
That being said, November offers a very pretty package for its dark fairytale of suffering and soul searching in stunning black and white images in fairly high contrast that catch the eye and keep the attention even when the story might not. The cinematography by Mart Taniel demonstrates a strong grasp of images that catch the eye and don’t let go. His work here is moody and full of emotion, the framing carefully chosen to show just the right amount of each scene and to add mystery to the story through images that are striking and stunning. This is the kind of work that any dark fairytale should aim at having for its visual side as it plays with the imagination and lets the viewer make up their minds at times as to what is real and what is not, like a sort of happy nightmare.
Playing in this made up land of beauty and darkness is the cast who add to the dreamy quality of the film with their performances. The two performances that shine and come through the images and the atmosphere the most are those of Rea Lest as Liina and Jörgen Liik as Hans. Their tortured at times, happy at others performances influence the film’s general feel and how it comes off in strong ways. They both show great talent at adding nuances to their work and making their characters feel human and real in a story that is a bit over the top at time and decidedly dark and mysterious.
Add to the weirdness are the kratt creatures made of wood and metal that seemingly sentient beings hellbent on wreaking havoc at times and helping their masters at others. These beings are definitely a wtf factor while also adding some whimsical touches to things when they seem to get too serious. Their presence can change the ton of scenes quickly and add to the film. Their creation is fantastically well done and will make one wonder how they work.
The film adds to these visual elements a few more with great costume and set design, but also adds to its general effect on the viewer with strong, moody at times and ambient at others, score by Jacaszek. The music created and added here fits the story and its whimsical dark dream quality perfectly with every note seemingly thought out and planned just for the scene it finds itself on. It’s organic in how it matches the film and helps create an immersive world for the viewer.
November is a moody film with whimsically dark, dreamlike imagery for its fairytale-like story that will unfortunately not work for everyone as it has scenes that require much attention and missing just a short moment can get the viewer seriously lost in what is going on for the characters. This is not entirely impossible to get back from and the film retains interest even with a few missed moments here and there if the viewer decides to not go back and watch them again. November is a film that has striking visuals that make it entirely worth seeing all by themselves with performances that fascinate and creatures that puzzle in a good way.