Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Movie Review: November

November ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Rainer Sarnet.
Written by: Rainer Sarnet based on the novel by Andrus Kivirähk.
Starring: Rea Lest (Liina), Jörgen Liik (Hans), Arvo Kukumägi (Rein), Katariina Unt (Luise), Taavi Eelmaa (Ints), Heino Kalm (Sander), Meelis Rämmeld (Jaan), Dieter Laser (Baron), Jette Loona Hermanis (Baroness), Jaan Tooming (Devil), Klara Eighorn (Witch), Ene Pappel (Imbi), Ernst Lillemets (Ärni), Sepa Tom (Endel), Tiina Keeman (Rosalie), Heino Paljak (Pastor).
If Rainer Sarnet’s November had a story as interesting as its visual, it may well be one of the year’s best films. Unfortunately, Sarnet doesn’t really seem interested in narrative at all, unless it gives him a chance to put some more weird imagery on display. To be fair to him, the images in the film are strange – and caught in beautiful black and white – but the film left more frustrated with its lack of storytelling, than wowed by the visuals. Nothing in the movie makes all that much sense, so it basically becomes a serious of bizarre visuals looking for a reason to exist.
The film, which was made in Estonia, takes place in a farming village of Medieval times (I think). It is a strange time no matter when it is, as in addition to the various normal characters you would expect in a farming village there are things known as Kraats – which for lack of a better description, I’d say are basically piles of junk come to life. We are introduced to them early when a collection of farming implements form itself into a walking, scary looking creature that demands work. No one seems all that phased by its existence – nor any of the other strange things that Sarnet’s camera captures.
The story, such as it is, is about a love triangle between Liina, Hans and Luise. Liina is the simple farmer’s daughter, who is promised to marry a disgusting, older bearded man, but is in love with local boy Hans. Hans is in love with Luise, who is the rich daughter of the Baron (Dieter Laser). Liina can apparently turn into a wolf – and she does so more than once – but basically remains a good person. Hans seems, honestly, to be a clueless idiot, and in the end perhaps he gets what he deserves. No one else leaves any sort of impression on you at all.
I think November may have been more successful had it chosen one path more than the other – either actually try to have a narrative, or else go all in, and really just be a series of vignettes with surreal imagery. The movie spends too much time on a narrative it clearly doesn’t care about, and the result is a lot of boring scenes that don’t add anything but runtime to the movie.
And yet, I have to say I would certainly be interested in seeing what Sarnet does next. This is clearly a talented director – the beautiful black and white cinematography is stunning, and there are visuals here you likely will remember long after you’ve forgotten everything else about this film. There just needs to be a reason – any reason – for them to exist.

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