Sunday, June 7, 2009

Off the Rails : Odd's Job and Beyond

Not very much happens in Bent Hamer's O' Horten, Norway's official submission for the foreign language film Oscar for 2007, but if you give it a chance it will steal its way into your heart. The story revolves around 67-year-old train engineer Odd Horten (Bård Owe) as he retires from 40 years of driving trains and spends a few aimless days as he comes to terms with retirement and getting old. With his inexpressive face and ever-present pipe Odd finds himself at odds with the world around him. When he is locked out of a friend's apartment building he decides to climb up a scaffolding and through the window of the apartment below. There he meets a young boy who wants him to stay until he goes to sleep. By that time poor Odd is also asleep and, in the morning, is faced with the prospect of trying to sneak out of the apartment without being seen by the rest of the family. He also falls asleep in a sauna and decides to take a late night naked swim, something that leads to some consternation when a lesbian couple have the same idea. The laughs are leavened with sadness as he pays a visit to his senile mother and learns of the death of an old friend. But what makes the film so rewarding is that he really does learn that there is life beyond his job, especially through the example of an eccentric old man who likes to drive with his eyes closed. Like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008), Odd Horten is a man whose identity has been entirely wrapped up in his occupation. Towards the end of O' Horten it looks like he might be planning to go out in a similar blaze of glory, taking new found recklessness a bit too far. To find out if he does, or finds a rewarding life beyond work, you'll have to watch the movie. Bent Hamer was also director of Factotum (2005), based on the novel by Charles Bukowski.

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