by Christie Robb
Imagine a world in which Bergman’s Seventh Seal made it with Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and you kinda get a sense of Rainer Sarnet’s November.
Based on the Estonian novel Rehepapp by Andrus Kivirähk, the movie is set in a sort of fairy-tale-ish undefined time period. Estonian peasants scrape out a substance-level existence while German aristocracy exploits their labor and flaunts an unattainably extravagant lifestyle before them.
Not surprising, then, that some of them strike a deal with the devil.
You see, the peasants can manufacture a kratt to do manual labor for them and steal treasure. A kratt is a creature made out of bones, sticks, and bits of rusty household implements, brought to life by giving drops of blood to the devil. (And in this movie, kratts talk and are charmingly bananas and look an awful lot like they were designed by Vincent Price’s character in Edward Scissorhands.)
At the center of the film lies the unrequited love of two peasants. Liina (Rea Lest) is hopelessly in love with Hans (Jörgen Liik). Hans has the hots for the daughter of the local German baron. Lina and Hans each try to capture the attention of their beloved while communing with ghosts, employing the services of kratts and witches, managing lycanthropy, evading the plague, circumventing arranged marriages, and avoiding starvation during the impending long winter.
The movie is a mismatch of comedy, romance, fantasy, political theory, and philosophy all shot in exquisite black and white. Somehow it comes together, like the kratts, in a way that seems fresh, bizarre, and interesting.