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CANNES 2008 Un Certain Regard / Norway

Bizarre train of events in O’Horten


Bizarre train of events in O’Horten

Viewers got a dose of quirky humour at midday today at the Cannes Film Festival, when Bent Hamer’s O’Horten [+see also:
film profile
screened in the Un Certain Regard section.

Appearing for the fourth time at Cannes, where he is a sidebar regular, the Norwegian director once again presented a subtle and melancholic film in an understated and elegant visual style.

Clearly demonstrating his admiration for the work of Jacques Tati, director-screenwriter-producer Hamer chose a rather eccentric protagonist – the laconic train driver Odd O’Horten (Bard Owe) – for his fifth feature. This old bachelor – who smokes a pipe and whose life is governed by an unchanging routine – retires at 67 and receives the Silver Locomotive trophy at a ceremony full of hilarious rituals.

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There follows a series of comical episodes, in which the newly retired O’Horten – who cannot bring himself to stop wearing his railway uniform and whose life is totally empty – wanders around Oslo. He always ends up in absurd situations: breaking into an apartment via the scaffolding, being strip-searched at the airport, and unexpectedly spending an evening at the swimming baths.

The protagonist crosses paths with other lonely figures, giving Hamer the opportunity to indulge in various surreal dialogues (“What a beautiful day fora blind drive!”, “What is society coming to when girls aren’t allowed to go ski jumping”) and private jokes (a party at a certain Røhmer’s house).

In the end, O’Horten understands (having met the inventor of a machine that heals injuries) that he must overcome his fear ("everything happens too late, therefore it is never too late") in order to throw himself (in the literal and metaphorical sense) into his new life.

This parable is filmed in Hamer’s characteristically simple style – with a static camera and steady rhythm – and is set to a superb score composed by Kaada.

O’Horten was produced by Bulbul Films (the filmmaker’s Norwegian-based company) and co-produced by Germany’s Pandora and France’s Memento Films, as well as Arte France Cinéma and Scanbox.

The film is sold internationally by The Match Factory.

(Translated from French)

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