Oh, O’Horten, how wincingly affected you are. Norwegian Bent Hammer’s film tells the tale of 67-year-old Odd Horten (Baard Owe), who retires from his lifetime job as a train engineer and, through a series of strange circumstances, learns for the first time how to truly live. With minimal dialogue and a calm, deliberate protagonist, it’s a quiet story, which isn’t to say that it’s an understated one, as metaphors run rampant and the air of silence can’t drown out the blaringly pat moral lessons (Carpe diem! You’re never too old!) that define Horten’s misadventures. A solitary sort not given to expressiveness, Horten grudgingly receives a lifetime achievement award from his conductor peers, accidentally winds up falling asleep in a strange young boy’s bedroom, and befriends a gentleman lying in the street who, soon afterward, espouses the importance of cherishing every moment to its fullest. That this coming-of-age narrative relates to an elderly (rather than young) man doesn’t make its message any less glib, as the serenely forlorn Horten—his tranquil expressions of sadness and longing repeatedly striking the same note, and often used simply for groan-worthy humor—is still a familiar cartoon character, and Hammer’s preference for drawn-out scenes merely highlights the false Hallmark Channel corniness of his scenario. Even more severely than in Kitchen Stories, the director initially flirts with inspired drollness (such as with Horten sneaking out of the kid’s house in the morning) before succumbing to preciousness, in the process missing out on opportunities to touchingly comment on the feelings of aimlessness and uselessness that can spring from retirement, as well as—via a third-act death—the societal disregard shown to senior citizens. Horten may learn through his unexpected, mildly absurd experiences that life is worth living, but given the sickly sweet cuteness of O’Horten, I wish he’d do it out of public view.
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 90 min
- Bent Hammer
- Bent Hammer
- Baard Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Githa Nørby, Bjørn Floberg, Kai Remlov, Henny Moan
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