Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fantasia '17 Film Review - November

Fable, storytelling, deals with the underworld and witchcraft are at the centre Ranier Sarnet's black and white adaptation of Estonian writer Andrus Kivirahk's novel Rehepapp. The tale features peasants living in the shadow of a German Baron's manor working the land surviving on next to nothing. The peasants dwell in cramped wooden structures, may have an animal or two and are so weak from lack of food they rely on demonic mechanical devices known at Kratts to help with field and household chores.

Liia lives in this world. She is young smart determined and in love with Hans who has eyes for the Baroness (Jetta Loona Hermanis). Liia battles her father, fends off a much older potential suitor is one with the wild and tries to trade for nice female clothing. The community rations everything even their wafers from church which they horde after church to use for hunting later.

Director Rainer Sarnet presents a story where dialogue is sparse. Key events occur deep in the woods in true fable traditions. Magical elements appear right from the open scene building to a new level with the events on All Souls Day. The day when the dead come home to their family for a meal followed by a quick rest in the sauna. Legend states that they look like large chickens pecking about then Sarnet shows that the image on screen. Cinematographer Mart Taniel shines during the procession of the dead sequence. The dark forest with its century old trees lit up by candlelight serve as a path for the dead clad in white as they march through from the cemetery to their family homes. Taniel use of light and reflections off faces make this a haunting yet warm scene.

Rea Lest turns in a physically challenging performances as Liia. She works the land pushing and maneuvring heavy equipment on the same level as any villager. At night she's out in the fields and forest moving in rhythm and sync with wolves. She is also the victim of attacks from an unwanted groom to be as well as her father while suffering from a deep love that will not be returned. Heno Kalm' Sander  is the leader of the peasants. He's the keeper of the black current used to deceive the Devil in the woods. He also counsel's the villagers on how to battle a plague that comes to town in a very strange form. Dieter Laser steals scenes as the Baron. He's a cross between Liberace and a Tim Burton character. He seems to be oblivious to what is going on but in fact may be two steps ahead rather than one behind.

November is a monochrome spectacle that puts pagan old world ideas side by side with modern religion. The grubby muddy peasants contrast the villagers that work in the Manor. The forest itself is a character in the film. It's the location for Liia's adventures; the spot for the mythical buried treasure and the home of the Devil; the provider and taker of souls. The film is a visually sharp original production that I can fully recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

November | Rainer Sarnet | Estonia / Netherlands / Poland | 2017 | 115 Minutes.

Tags: Trickery, Stealing, Sadness, Wolves, Manor, Sleepwalking, Plague, Kratts, Soul, All Souls Day.

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