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Next Stop Wanderland

MOVIE REVIEW
O'Horten (2007)

13
Hans-Jorgan Osnes/Sony Pictures Classics

After a fling with American indiewood via a big-screen adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s “Factotum,” Norwegian director Bent Hamer has returned to familiar ground in every sense. His latest, “O’Horten,” invites comparisons to “Kitchen Stories,” his breakout hit here in America. Both films are set in Norway and revolve around men in the process of breaking free of their lifelong routines.

The new film centers on Odd Horten (Bard Owe), a train engineer whose life has always run on schedule until the eve of his retirement. Odd misses the last train, both literally and figuratively, which prompts him to take the long way home. The numerous detours along the way include a visit to see his demented mother in the nursing home, trespassing in a private home and then being asked by a young boy to sit by his bed until he falls asleep, a full cavity search at an airport, dropping by a favorite smoke shop only to find its proprietor has passed away, skinny dipping in a public pool afterhours before a pair of young lovebirds interrupt, and a chance encounter with a man sleeping on a sleet-and-ice-blanketed street who turns out to be a former diplomat – or not.

“O’Horten” is about a man who travels for a living yet whose life has gone nowhere until he finally veers off the track. The same could be said about the film itself, which runs through a series of deadpan comic episodes before finally arriving at a few minor revelations. Odd’s voyage is pleasant enough, although “O’Horten” never builds up its narrative momentum to rival the profound resonance of “Kitchen Stories.” The latter worked so well because Mr. Hamer had an audience surrogate in the researcher who took notes on the kitchen routines of his subject. Here Odd wanders alone, and his journey isn’t exactly filled with introspection. So “O’Horten” only really works when Odd encounters the assorted oddballs; elsewhere the film travels a bit too light.

O’HORTEN

Opens on May 22 in New York and on May 9 in Britain.

Written, directed and produced by Bent Hamer; director of photography, John Christian Rosenlund; edited by Pal Gengenbach; music by Kaada; production designer, Kalli Juliusson; released by Sony Pictures Classics (United States) and Artificial Eye (Britain). In Norwegian, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Bard Owe (Odd Horten), Espen Skjonberg (Trygve Sissener), Githa Norby (Fru Thogersen), Bjorn Floberg (Flo), Kai Remlov (Steiner Sissener) and Henny Moan (Svea).

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