Monday, June 8, 2009

Movie Review: O'Horten

O’Horten * ½
Directed By: Bent Hamer.
Written By: Bent Hamer.
Starring: Baard Owe (Odd Horten), Espen Skjønberg (Trygve Sissener), Ghita Nørby (Fru Thøgersen), Henny Moan (Svea), Bjørn Floberg (Flo), Kai Remlow (Steiner Sissener).

Sometimes you just have to admit that a movie is not for you. Such is the case with Bent Hamer’s O
Horten, a Finnish comedy/drama about the wild last day in the career of train conductor Odd Horten. He has worked on the train for 40 years, has no wife, no kids, no family of any kind except for a senile mother, who he had always disappointed with his cautiousness. He also appears to have real friends. He lives for his job and he loves it so much his flat is even next to train tracks. He has simple interactions with the people in his life – the waiter at his favorite pub, the man who sells him his pipe tobacco, and the woman who runs the bed and breakfast he always stays at when his trips force him to spend the night away from home. Now that he doesn’t have those things in his life any more, his life is empty.

I am sure that too many people, this movie maybe quietly profound, and that its gentle humor will warm more than a few hearts. The film played at last year’s Toronto Film Festival to good reviews, was Finland’s entry for the Oscars last year (although it did not get nominated) and has been greeted by mostly good reviews since its release in America a few weeks ago. But to me, the film was simple boring. Nothing much happens in it. Horten goes from one strange interaction to another, yet the film never builds any sort of momentum. Compare this to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours or Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which in their own ways were not unlike O’Horten, as they are about men who go on strange journeys into the night where everyone seems to have a reaction to them. The same thing happens to Horten. No one every just leaves him alone, they all talk to him, and share their secrets, and he sits there quietly. He doesn’t really have any secrets to share himself, so he mainly stays quiet.

The film is quite beautifully shot and edited, and there is a simplicity in Baard Owe’s performance as Horten that is quite nice. But while I was sitting there I couldn’t help but think, “What is the point of all of this?”. For me, there was none. For you, the answer maybe different.

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