Film: O’Horten

November 23, 2009

The Norwegian film O’Horten (2007) may be the first film I’ve ever watched based entirely on the basis of its 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 somehow 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. Meanwhile, the snowy landscapes of rural Norway and the dark, slick streets of Oslo provide a unique glimpse of another corner of the world. This one won’t be for everybody, and it’s definitely slow, but ultimately I found it a good-hearted, rewarding film.