With Hollywood churning out either sequels, remakes, or the same predictable formulaic films, it’s always nice to branch out to foreign films to see how the rest of the world views filmmaking. You’ll be surprised at the creativity when you open yourself to the possibilities that lie among the subtitles. Films like Norway’s O’ Horten, a quiet character study full of reflective imagery, are a welcomed change of pace from Hollywood for the winter movie viewing season.
Odd Horten is strangely not Irish as the title of the film might lead you to believe, but he’s a train conductor nearing his retirement. He’s a quiet man, but obviously revered in his line of work as is shown by the large turnout at his retirement party, every last one of them giving him a Chugga-Chugga-WOO-WOO salute. But for a single man whose life has been defined by his work, what does he do with himself when he retires?
Odd chooses to see the world in different ways than through the windows of a train. As the film progresses, there is really no standard narrative, just a series of events that happens to Odd during this new period in his life. In one, he attempts to meet some friends at their apartment, but when he arrives, he is locked out. He climbs the scaffolding surrounding the building and enters through the window of a young boy, who asks Odd to tell him stories. In one of my favorites, Odd visits his regular tobacco store to purchase a new pipe and has a very pleasant talk with the widow behind the counter. Odd also visits a bed and breakfast and strikes up a charming relationship with the lady who owns it. And he also pays one last visit to his elderly mother, who was a ski jumping champion.
Odd also has one male companion in the film, a man named Trygve Sissener, whom Odd finds sleeping on the street. They strike up a fast friendship and mutually discover a need to live life to the fullest. In one of the more humorous scenes in the film, Trygve announces that he is able to see with his eyes closes and he and Odd drive around Oslo while Trygve is blindfolded.
The O in O’ Horten stands for Odd, and while a typical boys name from Norway, it also easily fits the tone of the film. This is a strange little film, though sweet and poignant at times. It deals with so many human emotions without really realizing them. We understand that so many things must be swimming through Odd’s mind, but he rarely verbalizes himself. The most heartfelt statement that he makes is in the film’s ambiguous ending. Filmed in the cold snowy Norway, O’ Horten is a slow moving but warm film that is perfect for viewing this winter.
Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this is a very impressive looking DVD release. I’ve seen Blu-Ray transfers that aren’t as crisp as this.
Interview With Director Bent Hamer and Composer John Erik Kaada – A Q&A with the director, where he answers questions about writing the screenplay and the characters. Then Kaada comes in and answers a few questions about how he composed the score. I think the translation must have been bad because while I was able to understand the basic idea of what they were talking about, the specifics seemed jumbled. 11:03
O’ Horten Soundtrack – This is how it looks on the menu screen, but if you click it, it just tells you that the soundtrack is available. Um, cool. Thanks for the info.
Trailers – A Blu-Ray commercial, It Might Get Loud, An Education, 12, The Class, Every Little Step, Soul Power, I’ve Loved You So Long, Brick Lane
O’ Horten is a slow film, bordering on too slow at times. It took me two tries to make it through the film, I fell asleep the first time. But the themes of the film are universal and completely human and relatable that I can’t help but give this film a recommendation. Of course the warning that you might fall asleep comes along with that recommendation. But ultimately you’ll be glad you hung in there.
Sony Pictures presents O’ Horten. Directed by: Bent Hamer. Starring: Baard Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby, Henny Moan, Bjørn Floberg . Written by: Bent Hamer. Running time: 90 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: September 22, 2009. Available at Amazon.com