O’Horten (Bent Hamer,2007):Norway, Germany, France

Reviewed by Joel DeVries. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival, Arclight Hollywood.

Take a walk down to the park.  Find the most harmless, nicest, unassuming old man that you can. Watch him just take in life while smoking his pipe, and you will have a great idea into the mind and life of Odd Horten.  O’Horten (Bent Hamer) gives the audience a candid look into the life of an older man who faces retirement and has no idea what to do without his usual structure in life. Slow moving and beautifully done, this film captures you not with dialogue or action, but with the truth of the character. Everybody can relate to not knowing what they are going to do next and the insecurity that accompanies that. This is a rare gem, and the more I think about the simplicity of this story, the more I enjoy it and the more it grows on me.

Odd Horten is a long time train conductor who is getting ready to take his final trip before retirement. His life is about to change drastically without the everyday structure that he has become so accustomed to. He is a calm man who seems to just go about his business without much to say, but who is always ready for a quick smoke on his trusty pipe. Before his last trip, he gets together with all of the other train conductors for a little retirement ceremony. They play normal games like “name that train”: they play the sound of a train taking off from the station and the first one to name what train and where it took off from first wins. After the ceremony, they convince him to meet them for the after party at some random building they give him the address to. When he gets there not only does the buzzer not work but he can’t get a hold of anyone at the party. He decides to take the fire escape up to the floor and sneak through apartment’s open window to get into the building to find the party. Inside he finds a little boy who finds it interesting that he’s a train conductor and who convinces him to sit next to his bed until he falls asleep. Horten ends up falling asleep so when he wakes up, in a very funny little scene, he has to find a way out without the parents seeing him. He gets out and even manages to give the kid a sly wave before he gets out of the door. When he gets to the station, he has to watch his final train riding off away from the station, and has to accept the fact of retirement and wonders what he’s going to do next.

Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund did a fantastic job on this film and really produced some beautiful visuals. I love the different scenes, from Horten in the pool to Horton staring down the mountain with his future waiting for him at the bottom.

The dry and unusual humor was a definite plus for the film and really caught you off guard sometimes. An example of this is when the streets are iced over and a man is seen with his briefcase under his arm sliding down the street on his butt.

Even though he is an older man, this is a great coming of age film showing that you are never to old to go out and do something new. Through a few embarrassing situations and an ample amount of dry humor, O’Horten is a very enjoyable film, and I can’t wait until the next time I can see it. Go and see it!

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