NovemberNovember is a phantasmagorical fairy-tale from ninteenth-century Estonia which just had its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.  Only superficially this is a love story: Liina (Rea Lest) pines for Hans (Jorgen Liik) who has eyes only for the baron’s daughter.  What it really is, though, is a whirlwind dance through Estonian folklore including kraat (like a golem made of farm implements), werewolves, witches, love potions, and the Devil himself.

Did I say whirlwind dance?  Forget that, it’s a compelled stomp to a dirge played by the Devil.  The tone of every one of those happy folk stories is steeped in self-depreciating black-comedy helplessness.  The kraat are mostly useless and require the exchange of your immortal soul to animate.  The love potion is made of shit, sweat and armpit hair, and the plague arrives personified as a beautiful girl with the kiss of death.  The village is populated with a motley assortment of peasants, the bulk of whom are eager to betray each other for a mouthful of bread.  Eastern European history lends itself to a very special kind of bleakness, and while Estonia is technically North-Eastern Europe the same themes resonate here too.  There’s misery behind every stone.

Lest gives a nuanced performance.  She negotiates a perilous landscape sarcastically fending off the advances of the older man her father is trying to marry her to, craftily negotiates with the witch wise-woman of the village for help, but also is lost in front of the power of her love for Hans.  She’s the beating heart of the film and her on-screen presence is a delight.  This is crucial, as everything around her is mud-stained black-and-white darkness.

The film does divert into art house visuals, and the pacing is occasionally slow enough that it might resist the casual viewer, but these things should not deter you.  It’s haunting, funny, oppressively dark and a delight.  Think The Witch written by Tom Waits and directed by Terry Gilliam.  I don’t know how I could better sell this one, I loved it.


November screens again on July 26th at 17:15 in de Seve.





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