Baltic Gothic: A Quick Review of “November”

In rural 19th-century Estonia, as depicted in the film November, people did not merely put out food offerings for the Dead on All Souls Day — they fed them. And talked to them. And if the Dead wished to enjoy a sauna, a fire had already been lit. And then things get weird.

November is a beautifully photographed black-and-while film (with a little infrared too?). Sometimes it is such a series of images that I felt as though I was watching someone’s curated Instagram feed or Tumblr blog, until the snowman started talking or the Devil twisted someone’s neck and took his soul.

Maybe instead of “Baltic Gothic,” we should call it “Estonian Hoodoo.”

Things you will find in November: shapeshifting; wolves; dirty doings at the crossroads; servants who steal from German aristocrats justifying their thefts in the name of Estonian nationalism; people stealing from each other; sleepwalking; the Plague personified as a beautiful woman, a goat, or a pig; lots of folk magic (with some spectacular failures); dreams; visions; love; and death.

The society depicted is nominally Christian but the other elements justify the label Pagan-ish. In fact, it made me think of a novel that I had read, The Man Who Spoke Snakish, which is set in medieval Estonia at the time of Christian crusades against the Baltic Pagans.

Color me surprised. November is based on a novel by Andrus Kivirähk, who wrote The Man Who Spoke Snakish as well. This novel was Rehepapp ehk November (Old Barny aka November), and I am not sure if it has been published yet in an English translation.

If you liked The Man Who Spoke Snakish or the 2015 movie The Witch, you would like this one. Read more reviews at

4 thoughts on “Baltic Gothic: A Quick Review of “November”

  1. Kalinysta

    OOOoooo! This looks interesting. I’m a fan of horror movies, but this also makes me wonder if this is what my Polish-speaking Lithuanian grandmother experienced in Europe. Might explain why she probably was such a fanatical Catholic.

  2. Glad to see awareness of this film spreading! I bought a copy right after seeing the trailer and am so glad I did, I absolutely loved the wonderful folk weirdness and relatively familiar magical sensibility.

    It’s funny, there’s a brief narration on the bonus features of the DVD which attempts to explain some of the symbolism and put all the strangeness into context, which I found totally superfluous because it already made sense to me! Even the particular customs I wasn’t familiar with still followed certain common rules. But I would guess that for someone new to folklore and myth and ritual, it would seem baffling.

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