I have been meaning to watch this movie for a while. It was on Shudder for a time, but I always put it off expecting it to always be there I guess. Well it’s not on Shudder anymore, so I had to rent it.
In the most recent season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, there was an episode where they teased this movie, but they ended up “surprising” Joe Bob with a movie he was in called Hogzilla. I would’ve preferred to watch November, and I REALLY would’ve liked to hear what Joe Bob had to say about it. So I was definitely disappointed.
This is an Estonian movie shot on black and white film and was directed by Rainer Sarnet (I haven’t seen anything else he’s done). It’s based on the novel, Rehepapp, by Andrus Kivirähk (I haven’t read it).
Anyway, it’s a sort of love story that incorporates a lot of Estonian folklore and mythology. The whole movie kind of interweaves many fantastical scenes, but the main plot revolves around a young villager, Liina, who is in love with another villager, Hans. Unfortunately, Hans is in love with the wealthy Baroness who lives in the manor. We watch what Hans and Liina are willing to do in order to be with the one they love.
The imagery throughout the film is very beautiful, and I love the decision to use black and white. On a surface level, it’s enjoyable to look at the wide shots of snowy landscapes and people gathering for an All Soul’s Day ritual in the woods. On a deeper level, the black and white shows us the contrast of life between the classes. We have the white garb and clean faces of the rich juxtaposed to the dark-clad, dirty peasants. It’s also incorporated in religious imagery throughout the film. In the church scenes (which is typically associated with the wealthy), we have bright white interiors, white communion wafers, and a very white Jesus hanging on the cross. In scenes where witchcraft and deal-making with the devil are concerned (the poorer characters in the movie are the ones to partake in these), it’s very dark and black. It’s definitely a movie about the dark, selfish nature of humans and how it impacts the world and other people. Even their blood is depicted as black while the natural world around them is overexposed in some scenes to look incredibly brilliant and white.
The most interesting thing I learned from this film was about the Estonian mythological figure known as a kratt. Apparently it was a “creature” people would make out of things they found around the house to do work for them. They would make a deal with the devil to give the creature a soul in exchange for their blood. If the master didn’t give the kratt work to do, it would turn on its master. At that point, the master would give the kratt an impossible task that would cause it to self-destruct. This is laid out for you in the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, but I had to look up what kratts were to really understand what was going on. Maybe that’s just me though. Here is a different kratt scene for you:
I feel like I could write about a lot of things in this movie, but I don’t want to set a precedent where I have to write a whole lot everyday. The soundtrack, the cinematography, the story, and the performances make this movie a very worthwhile watch, and I’ll probably watch it again.