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O’HORTEN

Director: BENT HAMER

NORWAY-GERMANY-FRANCE • 2007 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 90 MIN


THIS SCANDINAVIAN FABLE, IN WHICH A TRAIN DRIVER’S LIFE STARTS TO GO OFF-KILTER AFTER HIS RETIREMENT, IS GENTLY SURREAL AND WITTILY STOIC IN EXPERTLY JUDGED MEASURE.

Best known for his quirkily observational Kitchen Stories, director Bent Hamer owes something to the comically affirmative miserablism of Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki, and indeed to the potently bleak weirdness of Sweden’s Roy Andersson, but the Norwegian works with a gentle touch that’s all his own. He’s fortunate too in having a leading man (Bard Owe, a veteran who worked for Carl Theodor Dreyer) so in tune with Odd Horten, the 67-year-old faithful servant of the Norwegian rail network, who’s in a funk once he’s completed his final run. Not only does he look at his fraying, elderly mother with fresh recognition, but people he knows are starting to pop their clogs. It’s a time for reflection, regret perhaps — but also, crucially, the possibility of a fresh start!

It’s easy to make all this sound a bit dour, yet describing the string of quietly bizarre, seemingly unconnected occurrences which put O’Horten’s lot into a new perspective would do the film no favours. It’s a journey that viewers will just have to treasure for themselves, so you’ll find no mention here of blind driving, lesbian skinny-dipping or a certain pair of red shoes. Thankfully, the whimsicality never gets out of hand, yet neither is there any false sentimentality about the questions facing O’Horten. Just the sweet, sad realisation that even if it is too late to change your ways, giving it a go will certainly put a smile back on your face. — Trevor Johnston.

Irish Shorts @ IFI – SPACEMEN THREE//
This screening includes Hugh O Connor’s hilarious short in which Astro-geologist Dr. Glen Hosey (Pat Shortt) is in space for the first time. His unusual method of passing the time isn’t exactly compatible with the peaceful voyage the other two astronauts anticipated… (Ireland 2008, 12.5 minutes)

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