Rainer Sarnet’s new film „November” is a classical story about tragic love that is never consummated on the backdrop of a muddy and moth-eaten mytho-Estonian life.
The glittering surface of the water on the screen seems like a promise – we have reached a mirror world, where mythological is common. The dead walk with the living, human-size chickens whisk in the sauna, and, walking in the manor park at night, one might run into a goblin made of iron rods, carrying a bottle of vodka and shouting “Hello!” Kivirähk’s „Old Barny” reaches the silver screen in black-and-white, lit by bright projector lamps, resulting in high contrast that makes the viewer feel as if he sits in the front row in a theatre and gets a very close look on how the grimaces alter on the rough-hewn wrinkles of the actors. The most plastic performance is delivered by the face of Devil, buried under in a coat of powder and a thick moustache, challenged by his doublet-clad body jumping around the crossroads on a Waning Thursday. Senses will be haunted by the film’s dirty faces and witless smiles, many of which do not belong to professional actors, but were found in response to a call made in the local newspaper – we are looking for people who look like they come from the photos of Johannes Pääsuke.
The behaviour of peasants is governed by laziness, greed, and bile. Stupidity manifests itself as stubborn superstition. Their own view is, of course, that it is cleverness with which to deceive the priest and the landlord. The baron follows the sinful with a pained look, but probably accepts then that the earthlings will never be proper Christians, as he begins to make pointless jokes and resigns himself to playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano. At the same time, the valet with a bowl haircut takes the totally infatuated Hans to the bedroom of the baron’s sleepwalking daughter. The baroness, straying onto the manor roof in her sleep, and her bewitched lover are seen from the manor park by the heart-broken Werewolf Liina (Rea Lest), the depth of whose feelings convincingly portrays the conflict between a pure heart and the degenerate world.
If some of the more magical scenes remind one of the camera and montage jumps from “Bumpy”, then by the time Dogme is reached, the evil is no longer reflected mythologically. Despite the black humour accompanying the action, or rather, with its support, the gloominess of the observable world and its inhabitants becomes ever more oppressive. This anguish is not era-specific depressiveness arising from estrangement that can often be encountered in Estonian and Nordic films. This anguish manifests itself in a somewhat more authentic way: I would like to say that as a mouthful it is something more than world soup while remaining unmistakeably local at the same time.
The few characters whose souls have (temporarily?) been cleansed by love, sitting in a pool of water under apple trees and snowflakes through the night, feel like a breath of spring in this November. The snow and white colour seem to repeat as signs of soul. After outsmarting the plague, the snowfall seems to clean the earthlings of the dirt and bring relief. But relief does not tend to last long in this world.
Similarly to „Idiot”, Rainer Sarnet manages to portray the beauty in the squalid, eternally poor environment in “November” with painful precision. If you forgive the clumsy start, where the bullying of a calf is not justified by the content or anything else, one has to admit that „November” is a style-bold film, which pokes the national pride, risen over the edge of the bowl, in the right place to keep it from getting too full of itself, just like the novel “Old Barny” did.