Blu-Ray Review – November

You want weird, may I present November. Fitting in with the works of Béla Tarr and Paweł Pawlikowski, as well as films like Hard to Be a God, November is yet another Eastern European black-and-white arthouse flick draped in despair and history. November has a fairy tale quality, in its tale of werewolves, satan, and tools given souls. Yet this surreal picture is a cautionary warning, a film that avoids happy conclusions like the plague.

Among the bleached white images and distorted music (both haunting and melancholic), November shows a raw and naked beauty. This is a film of dirt among the people and brightness among the trees. Underneath the blank, unmoving Baltic sky, November presents many things: a struggle for Estonian identity, the old reconciling so they can understand the young, love transcending everything to define all we do.

Few elements in November are truly sane and when Dieter Laser (best known for his two leading roles in The Human Centipede franchise) turns up in a key supporting role, it seems destined to get weirder. What actually unfolds however is the most conventional side of the story, of tragic love against a slightly political backdrop. His role as an aristocrat brings class into the movie, highlighting ignorance and folklore as the assets of the poor.

Director Rainer Sarnet has made a film of passion, of love leading fools down paths they’re best avoiding. His world-building is constructed through the film’s meticulous cinematography, which uses contrast to highlight all the filth that surrounds the characters and yet has magical moments where things get more blurred. This is cinema of fairy-tale magic, portrayed on a canvas made of grotty, despairing reality.

Witchcraft and magic play a key part in November, showing us a time of dreams and earthly punishments created by the spiritual. November plays itself carefully though, indulging in a joyful streak of dark humour (there’s some literal shit eating). The naked girl running as a wolf, snow slowly blackening, a silent love with heartbeats shouting, November is a beautiful little fantasy nightmare, filled with joy, love, and the unavoidable despair of life.

The disc from Eureka includes the film’s trailer and a booklet with a new essay by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas in included in the release.

★★★★

Darren Carver-Balsiger

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