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Norway, 2007, 90 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Black Comedy, Comedy, Drama
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: Norwegian English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Bent Hamer
Producer: Bent HamerEditor: Pål GengenbachScreenwriter: Bent HamerCinematographer: John Christian RosenlundPrincipal Cast: Bård Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby, Henny Moan, Bjørn FlobergUS Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
In the darkness of a long Norwegian winter, a sixty-seven-year-old railroad engineer—whose life has remained resolutely on track through four decades of hard work—finds himself on the verge of retirement and at confusing loose ends. What adventure can there be now for a man so long shackled to schedules, to routines?
In examining the choices faced by Odd Horten (played by Bård Owe, a Lars von Trier vet), director Bent Hamer (Factotum) deploys bone-dry Scandinavian humor and the same absurdist slant he brought to 2003’s acclaimed Kitchen Stories (a tongue-in-cheek look at so-called efficiency experts). Here, Hamer’s aging bachelor of a hero manages to write a new chapter for the seemingly closed book of his life—making strange new friends, revisiting old flames, going for a spin with a blindfolded motorist, slipping into a pair of red high heels. Liberated from the old order, Horten revels in long-overdue disorder as he makes up for lingering regrets—including the missed opportunity to go ski-jumping (in allusive homage to Hamer’s own mother, a female pioneer of the sport).
The protagonist may call to mind, say, Jack Nicholson's bewildered retiree in About Schmidt. But Hamer’s pointedly bizarre perspective and cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund’s sweeping views of the starkly beautiful Norwegian countryside make this a uniquely European dramedy, infused with humanity and informed by the notion that a little imagination and courage can conquer all.
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