Film: O’Horten

November 23, 2009

The Norwegian film O’Horten (2007) may be the first film I’ve ever watched based entirely on being intrigued by the movie poster (spotted a while back  at the Encino Laemmle).  The poster features a faintly smiling, aging man wearing an engineer’s uniform, holding a large dog with sad-puppy eyes.  I’m not sure why this image captured my interest, and it certainly doesn’t say much about the film…but oddly, the film turned out to be exactly what I expected.

Odd Horten (Baard Owe) is an engineer reaching the end of an illustrious forty-year career in the rail service.  A calm, clockwork man, Horten’s  retirement party is the first in a number of low-key, mildly amusing adventures in disrupted routine that characterize his difficult adjustment to the post-working world.  It’s a very…okay, very slow film, particularly in the early stages, and certainly by design — O’Horten’s routine, play-it-safe existence until now makes shifting to the endless free time of retirement an epic struggle, and director Bent Hamer milks that dignified awkwardness for all its worth.  It requires a patient viewer, but I think the slow-build pays off, as the protagonist’s transformation truly feels earned.  And meanwhile, the snowy landscapes of rural Norway and the dark, slick streets of Oslo provide a unique glimpse of another corner of the world (another reason I enjoy foreign cinema).  This one’s not for everybody, and definitely slow, but ultimately I found it a good-hearted, rewarding film.

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