Friday, September 4, 2009

O'Horten (Rhoades)

“O’ Horten” Is Odd Little Film

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Norwegian director Bent Hamer wasn’t thinking in English when he decided to make a film about a 67-year-old railway conductor facing retirement. His main character is named Odd Horten. But this seemingly descriptive appellation wasn’t meant to reflect the man’s eccentric habit-bound nature. It was merely a serendipitous accident between languages. Odd is a fairly common name in Norway, it turns out.

The contraction of first and last name gives us the film’s title, “O’ Horten.” It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Admittedly, this is more of a character study than anything else. “O’ Horten” has been described as “a movie without a strong plot or a clear chronology.”

On his next-to-last day at work, our man Odd fussily prepares for his final run between Oslo and Bergen, saying goodbye to old friends. But things go awry when he gets locked outside a surprise farewell party and winds up in the wrong room where a small boy asks him to stay until he can get to sleep. Dozing off himself, Odd finds that when he awakens his familiar trains-must-run-on-time life has been thrown off schedule.

The Fellini-esque sequences that follow give you a glimpse into the psyche of a man whose very existence is about to be changed by retirement. His senile mother awaiting death in an old age home. A favorite tobacconist who has just died. The misadventures that come with trying to dispose of his boat. Losing his shoes at a swimming pool. A new friend who turns out to be less permanent than expected.

Typical of Hamer’s films, the themes here are loneliness, old age, and the courage to take chances.

BÂrd Owe does a convincing job as Odd Horten. After making 30 movies in Scandinavia, this is his first leading role.

Espen Skjÿnberg stands out as Odd’s new friend. In fact, he was awarded a prestigious Amanda Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

“O’ Horten” itself received the Un Certain Regard nod at the Cannes Film Festival.

In a time when America’s Healthcare is being debated as a plan to “kill grandma” and Medicare is running out of funding, when Social Security is at issue and baby boomers are facing retirement, “O’ Horten” offers us an uncomfortable crystal ball.
[from Solares Hill]

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