Surreal Folk Horror Film ‘November’ Might Bring Tears to Your Eyes

In the ’80s, surreal wonderland stories like Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’ and Neil Jordan’s ‘The Company of Wolves’ captivated audiences, yet recently, it’s been the blend of folk horror that’s garnered both cult acclaim and critical success, notably with films such as Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch’. Enter Rainer Sarnet’s celebrated 2017 film ‘November’, a dark fairytale that traverses a strange, fantastical world. At its heart lies a love triangle involving Liina (played by Rea Lest), a young werewolf entangled with local boy Hans (Jörgen Liik), who himself pines for a sleepwalking baroness.

Sarnet’s ‘November’ unfolds in a village where reality blurs with the bizarre: automata made from farming tools roam, townsfolk strike deals with the devil, and the Black Plague appears as a personified entity. While the love triangle is a familiar narrative thread, the film’s deep emotional resonance may bring viewers to tears. Beyond its narrative, ‘November’ captivates with its surreal visuals, making it an instant classic.

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November Horror
Image Courtesy: IMDb

Watching ‘November’ isn’t just about horror; it’s a journey into the bizarre. The film defies expectations from its opening scene, where an automaton fashioned from 19th-century farm tools and animal skulls steals a cow—a visually arresting and technically impossible act. Throughout, ‘November’ eschews traditional horror tropes like jump scares and gore, relying instead on atmospheric tension and the eerie silence broken only by natural sounds.

While Liina’s lycanthropy adds a Gothic element, it’s treated matter-of-factly, contributing to the film’s haunting imagery. The occult, central to November, underscores the characters’ desperation and humanity. Witches advise Liina on winning Hans’s love through archaic spells, blending mythical elements with raw human emotion. Similarly, the villagers’ religious practices—viewed as mythical by outsiders—add layers to the film’s rich tapestry.

November Horror
Image Courtesy: MUBI

Based on Andrus Kivirähk’s novel, ‘November’ weaves Estonian folklore with Christian customs, creating a distinct mythology. The village itself feels tactile and lived-in, its grittiness enhancing the film’s dark fairytale allure. This aesthetic, coupled with the film’s black-and-white cinematography, evokes a Brothers Grimm-like atmosphere.

Ultimately, ‘November’ tragic love story, punctuated by stunning visual sequences like the ethereal underwater embrace of its protagonists, sets it apart as a compelling 21st-century fairytale.

–Farheen Ali