Retirement is a difficult stage in life, especially for somebody who has spent a lifetime dedicated to the same profession. The early scenes in this film, where we see a train gliding in and out of tunnels through a beautiful snow-covered landscape, illustrate something of how much Odd Horten (Bård Owe) loves being an engine driver, so it's easy to anticipate that this will be a story of sadness and loss. In fact, it's almost the opposite, as Odd embarks upon a series of adventures which reveal how many strange and wonderful things there are to be found in the world all around us.

Although he meets a number of remarkable people along the way, there's nothing in Odd's experiences that lies outside the possible - rather, it's the combination of events, the unlikeliness of them and the unblinking way they are observed that lends this film its magical atmosphere.

Its gentle, absurdist humour is perfectly complemented by a charmingly understated performance from Owe, who merely has to widen his eyes or raise an eyebrow to achieve what other comedy actors routinely feel the need to flap their arms and shriek for. Odd's willingness to open himself up to possibility is all that is needed to set the story in motion. Whether he's accepting a tour of the city at night from a blindfolded driver or watching confused businessmen slide down an icy road, he shows a spirit and tenacity more often associated with the very young than with the old. But at this stage in his life, what does he have to lose?

Bent Hamer's dry humour is as evident here as always, but O'Horten has a warmth and generosity of spirit almost entirely absent from his last work, the cynical Factotum. It's a delightful film which (provided you're not too sensitive about a bit of nudity) will appeal to the whole family.

It's also beautifully shot, produced with an evident care and attention to detail one rarely sees these days. The cinematography is glorious and the most intimate scenes are handled with a confidence that brings out every nuance in the superb performances. It's a real return to form, so let's hope it presages more such work from Hamer in the future.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2009
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An engine driver adjusting to retirement has a series of strange adventures.
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Director: Bent Hamer

Writer: Bent Hamer

Starring: Bård Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby, Henny Moan, Bjørn Floberg

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Norway, Germany, France


Glasgow 2009

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