Cold November is the refreshing tale of a rural matriarchal family and their history with the custom of modern-day hunting. The story revolves around adolescent Florence (Bijou Abas) and is as much a coming of age tale as it is a cultural study. There is hardship, there is family, but most of all, there is just a calming growth that the film flows through.
There are some movies you forget are films and Cold November is one of them. It is so nostalgically indie that it doesn’t seem like a film, more like a documentary. The picture’s use of the camera is like a ghost has come back to watch this family grown and decided to film it. There is a lot of natural light. The settings are steeped in authenticity and life. The wardrobes are plain and unpretentious.
While hunting may be the focus, and the focus on Florence getting her first animal, it is the idiom of connecting to the earth is the strongest trope in this film. The land, what you take from it, and who you are when you do so, is poignant. Florence’s transition into womanhood is handled with grace and tact and reflects not only the change she is going through but part of the world in which she lives when she lives in it. This isn’t a macho ‘what can you kill’ story, rather, a ‘why do we kill’ fable about families who have hunted for generations and what the animals they have killed offer them.
The trees, the tree-stand, the snow, and water…such a strong environmental representation in something whose sole point it hunting. Yes, trucks and chainsaws and ATV’s are prevalent, but they are functional. There are no big jumps or muscles bulging whilst trees are being felled. There is a biological connection in Cold November, a very nurturing one. I can see why director and writer Karl Jacob wanted to tell this story. It resonates as if it is something very intimate to him.
As for any political angle taken during the filming of this work, I’ll quote Jacob himself:
“I never intended the film to take a political stance, but I definitely realize its political importance. I personally value the tradition of living off the land, which my immediate family has done and continues to do to an extent. It’s what got my grandparents through the Great Depression. Guns play an important role as a tool in that lifestyle, which perhaps has not been portrayed that much, if at all, in popular media.
I think I am a bit of an anomaly as a predominantly liberal, urban-living vegetarian who values the importance of gun ownership.”
One scene in specific embodies this whole film: It is a static landscape shot of a tree bind. Florence, with the help of her mom (Anna Klemp), is pulling her gun up a rope into the structure and is preparing to hunker down and wait for any possible prey. There is a glorious piano accompaniment while the two women work towards the same goal. If I were to cut a trailer for this film, it would be this moment. Picturesque and simplistic, the natural movement of the scene says so much. It breathes ritual. It is sober in its reticence.
Cold November premiers on iTunes on May 22, 2018.
Cold November – 4/5 stars