O'Horten Directed by: Bent Hamer Cast: Bård Owe, Espen Skjønberg Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: June 12, 2009
Plot: On the eve of his retirement, train engineer Odd Horten begins to have a series of unusual encounters.
Who’s It For? Fans of quirky Scandinavian cinema, like the films of Aki Kaurismäki or Hamer's previous film, Kitchen Stories.
Expectations: A quirky, enjoyable film. I liked the preview.
Bård Owe as Odd Horten: Owe plays it close to the vest as Odd Horten. There's not a lot of plot, the film is mainly a character study so a lot of the burden falls on him. Horten wanders through Oslo, trying to find his place in the world after the job that had defined him is gone. Owe carries himself with pride, Horten never feels like someone to be pitied. His willingness to meet people and interact with them is charming if sometimes ill conceived (I wouldn't necessarily talk to a guy passed out by the trolly tracks). His performance is one of the highlights of the film. Score: 7/10
Espen Skjønberg as Trygve Sissener: This is Horten's film, every other character is secondary. Of these, Skjønberg is the most memorable as Sissner, a former diplomat who Horten meets passed out next to the trolly tracks. He's a strange dude, a collector of "primitive weapons" who thinks he can see with his eyes closed. Skjønberg makes all this weirdness credible. It's small role, but a memorable one. Score: 6/10
Talking: The dialogue is direct and amusingly to the point. Not rude, but very straight forward. Unfortunately, I didn't always get what was going on. Not on the screen, but in Horten's head. I would have appreciated a little dialogue to explain that more.
Sights: Despite being set during a Norwegian winter, there's a good amount of daylight in the movie. I loved the train engineer outfit that Horten wore.
Sounds: There's a great scene toward the beginning where the engineers get together for Horten's retirement party and play a game where they try to guess the sound of each train. It's one of the geekiest things I've ever seen.
Best Scene: I liked the introduction of Sissener. Odd meets him passed out on the street, and they proceed to his home that's full of crazy "primitive" weapons and all sorts of weirdness.
Ending: Horten goes to stay (live with?) a woman he seemed to care about, but who we haven't seen since the beginning of the film. Nothing that has happened in the film since seems to directly relate to the ending, unless he was just sick of the craziness of Oslo.
Questions: What's up with the ski jumping? I know it connects to his mother, but how? An homage?
Rewatchability: Maybe I would understand it better knowing where it was headed. But I'm not really interested in doing so.
Quirky comedies are fine, but O'Horten focuses on the comedy at the expense of plot. Odd meanders off on a series of adventures and the film meanders with him. But unlike more successful episodic films, there's no central theme. I thought we were headed toward Odd finding his place in the world without his job, but his response to everything that occurs to him is so understated, it's difficult to tell how this is all affecting him.
Despite my critique of the character, I liked the actor. Owe makes Odd seem real, regardless of his circumstances. Bret Hamer has made a variety of quirky films, Kitchen Stories feels similarly off kilter. But it does have a point and plot, which this lacks. If you're looking for a character study and just want to sit along for the ride, O'Horten may work for you. Otherwise, wait for dvd.
Final Score: 6/10