Wednesday, August 12, 2015

O'Horten: Film Review

Released 27 December 2007
in Norway
I have seen O'Horten (2007) on several "films about aging" lists, but just didn't get around to viewing it until now.  It's a film from Norway available with English subtitles. 

Directed by Bent Hamer, this film offers viewers of all ages some great insights into the tensions between following a routine and deviating from routine.  

O'Horten is pensive and alternates between being sad, touching and amusing. 

The story starts with the title character, Odd Horten, wrapping up 40 years of employment as a railway engineer.  Horten is a 67-year-old man of habit.  

Quite literally, Horten has stayed on the same path for decades. Conducting a train makes symbolizes his pronounced character trait. 

We observe Horten being understated, reserved, and methodical in the days leading to his retirement.  Once he is done working, things take a dramatic turn.  One could say that his life falls off the rails. 

The bulk of the film is filled with vignettes of what happens to Horten when he doesn't have a work routine to organize his life.  

Horten meets interesting people, he gets into a few sticky situations, and he himself starts acting a bit odd.  I don't want to summarize these events, because it would spoil the viewer's experience.  But clearly, life has a much greater range than Horten experienced in his small apartment and his small conductor's compartment. 

Many of the people he regards are older adults, particularly his own ailing mother.  This gives Horten occasion to consider the years he has ahead of him. What does it mean to retire? to get old? to have lived?   In several scenes, Horten takes in the situation while smoking on his pipe. This gives us time to think along side him. 

The film has very little dialogue (and a tiny bit of nudity at a local pool).  Some viewers want the director to tell them exactly what's going on.  This film would be "slow" for those who have trouble reading characters' thoughts in their action, props and settings. 

Now I want to go to Norway and talk with Horten while he smokes a pipe full of tobacco. To be honest, given his understated says, I would end up talking at Horten. But I'd intuit his replies. 

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