In “O’Horten,” we meet a train conductor named Odd Horten. Played by Baard Owe, he is about to retire at 67.
When his colleagues throw him a party, the highlight is a guessing game: Sitting around a table, they see if they can identify a train by its distinctive choo-choo sounds. They are in a world of their own, eternally stoical. Instead of a hearty farewell tune, the fellow conductors on the Bergen-to-Oslo run serenade the retiree with a mechanical refrain of “Choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo.”
Everything in “O’Horten” is as droll as its characters. It’s reversed slapstick, a work of odd revelations. It is, in essence, a meditation on the loneliness that often accompanies retirement. For many retirees it’s the end of the line. Life, real life, is over. It’s a formidable challenge for men and women who may wake up in the morning and find there is nothing to do; perhaps, no reason to live.
DIRECTED BY Bent Hammer
SCREENPLAY BY Bent Hammer
STARRING Baard Owe, Espen Skjornberg, Githa Norby, Bjorn Floberg, Kai Remlov and Henny Moan
RUNNING TIME 90 minutes
For Odd Horten, it is his first chance to reflect and engage. Though he has a lady in Oslo, it is a sterile affair. Odd Horten is a stoical virgin. With his new-found freedom, the movie tracks his gradual immersion into life. It’s a new beginning, a frigid excursion, and for us as well, a trip into the world of the absurd.
Locked out of his apartment, he finds himself in the room of a little boy. Nothing scandalous occurs, but by the time he awakes, he has missed his last run. On his way to meet a friend at an airport, he innocently walks on the runway before he is arrested. Odd Horten has never flown.
On it goes with other encounters. It’s a literal and metaphorical journey of self-discovery, a coming-of-age movie about a senior citizen.
No crescendos or explosive situations. It may well disarm moviegoers used to more hearty fare. I also found myself wondering, at first, where the movie is going. A day later, Odd Horten’s experiences stayed with me.
In years to come, I would not be surprised if this droll Norwegian comedy is hailed as a minimalist masterpiece.
Reach Gazette film critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Life and Arts