Keswick Film Club - Reviews - O'Horten

Reviews - O'Horten


Reviewed By John Stakes

You can always rely on the Norwegians to come up with interesting names to savour, and in last Sunday’s main feature (which followed an amusing “short” entitled “How to Save Fish From Drowning” filmed in the remoter parts of North Dakota) this tradition was maintained as we were introduced to Bard Owe and his character Odd Horten, as directed by the seasoned Bent “Kitchen Stories” Hamer.

Throughout its 90 minutes run director Hamer’s delightful and amusing screen play followed 67 years old train driver, Odd, on his mini odyssey over a long day and dark rainy night in Oslo, just after Odd has retired from 40 years’ faithful service.

Odd’s railway-lined face reflected four decades of conditioning at the hands of the rail authority which had fashioned a man at home with himself and completely cushioned against the challenges of the outside world. If he’d ever nursed any desire to engage with the rest of humanity such thoughts had been suppressed or shunted aside by the rail system. His everyday route was but a single line. So Horten comes to the end of his totally predictable and time-tabled working life to be presented by his colleagues with a plinth- mounted model engine cast in silver to mark his final departure.

Issues surrounding the difficulty of adjusting to retirement were sidelined as Hamer concentrated on how Horten relates to a series of unlikely but intriguing incidents when our hero decides to unlock his suppressed curiosity and “come off the rails”. He quickly finds himself baby-sitting a small boy to sleep, leaving in the morning with the boy’s family blissfully unaware of this stranger in their midst. He skinny-dips in Oslo’s Municipal Swimming Baths and meets a drunk, who, it transpires, believes he himself is his own diplomat brother. Odd is taken back to the man’s home that is stuffed with curios from his brother’s travels around the world. Odd is then taken on a drive through Oslo’s darkened streets, the driver blindfolding himself to demonstrate his familiarity with the city’s layout. Odd takes all this very calmly, perhaps a reflection of his familiarity with his own usual form of transport. When the man conveniently expires at the wheel Odd is left holding the man’s faithful dog, over which he now assumes ownership.

During most of these events, Horten is a quizzical onlooker, removed and almost speechless. Indeed the film would have lost none of its nuanced charm and humour if it had been made as a silent movie, supported either way by its appropriate and quirky tinkling musical score from Kaada.

Hamer rounds off Horten’s somewhat indulgent spree by having him attempt to emulate his mother’s prowess as a former ski jumper by leaping from Oslo’s own ski jump……..and surviving! This leap of faith enables him to pluck up courage to meet up with the landlady at the end of his line and, more significantly, to ignite their hitherto unspoken relationship at her guest house where he has been such a regular customer as to take his meals in her kitchen.

The film’s closing shot of a train reaching its buffers as the couple (and dog) move out of sight along the platform, captured the essence of this neat, wry, undemanding but superbly crafted, slightly sad little film. It was hugely enjoyed by an audience still apparently recovering from the demands of Charlie Kaufman’s take on the world last week. This is already proving to be another varied and stimulating season for the club.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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