Fantasia 2017: November (Estonia – 2017)

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for Cinetalk.net

A compelling film from Estonia is coming at Fantasia (and it will be released in America this Fall through Oscilloscope). Rainer Sarnet’s November (based on the celebrated novel by fellow countryman Andrus Kivirähk), is set in 19th century Estonia.

Torn between christian faith and pagan rituals, a group of villagers, in order to survive, constantly cheat their masters, Jesus, the Devil and themselves, making various agreements toward whatever is the more convenient at the right place and the right time. In their survival schemes they get the help from magical servants called Kratts.

One of the most fascinating thing about November (as a North American viewer) is the introduction of the Kratts, a magical creature and servant from Estonian folklore (made from hay, household tools and animal skull) who’s soul is provided by making a pact with the Devil (while trying to cheat him by using blackcurrants berries for fake blood). The Kratts need to be constantly working or they become violent, thus their master ask for them, sometimes, to perform impossible tasks.

Using crude, harsh dialogues, often a delightful ingredient of East European cinema, and relying on a strong ensemble cast, November explores traditions, ceremonials and superstitions during the passage from an order (paganism) to another (one God only, fearing creatures). Its realistic parts are reminiscence of a Charlton Heston vehicle, the underrated The Warlord (1965), because of the thematic, whilst the outline evokes the cinema of Aleksey German (Hard to be a God) and Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (during the opening flying sequence).

With economical but efficient use of special F/X, and shot in beautiful black and white by cinematographer Mart Daniel, November delivers the right framing, lights and shadow, the right pace to fully embody its venture into traditional folk tales. It artfully plays on the thin line between reality and pagan belief with poetic flair.

 

Festival Screenings:
July 23 • 7:10 PM Salle J.A. De Sève
July 26 • 5:15 PM Salle J.A. De Sève

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