Part Monty Python, part Lars von Trier, Estonian Oscar submission November is a movie that will just make you say, “What?” Based on Andrus Kivirähk’s novel Rehepapp ehk November (Old Barny aka November), this story follows a 19th century Estonian city filled with demons, plagues and bizarre citizens all clamoring to survive their muddy circumstances. Focusing on Liina (Rea Lset), a poor girl narrowly escaping arranged marriage and traipsing through her region as a werewolf, and Hans, a young man smitten with a girl well above his station, the citizens tangle with their surroundings as Liina pines after a man who does not return her affections.
Opening with a piece of Estonian folklore, a kratt, a collection of tools brought to life by a demon, retrieves a cow and flies helicopter-style back to its creator. A scythe, an axe, and a knife creating its three prongs, it threatens to strangle its creator if not given work, so it must be destroyed through an impossible task. Given the task to create a ladder out of a loaf of bread, the kratt explodes with the impossibility. So begins a tale as old as psychosis. The city must avoid a repeating plague. They seek out the devil and try to trick his book of blood signatures. They create love potions in the same way Minny Jackson makes revenge pie. The black-and-white film is Grimm’s fairy tales from a more depressing country.
Writer-director Rainer Sarnet fills the film with as much humor and beauty as creeping terror. Director of photography Mart Taniel adds shadowed texture to the films absurdity, making a lecherous baron unsettling while still humorous, making the grizzled citizens eerie along with their Marty Feldman-esque qualities. Sarnet ricochets the story amid its creeping narrative. You are not left waiting for the next tragedy or trouble; once the plague passes, the magical matchmaking begins, then straight to soul selling, and snowman kratt poetry. If you’re in the mood for a very, very strange movie, check it out at Grand Illusion Cinema while you can. Plays through at least Thursday, but might be held over. This one is worth not risking the “might”.