Published Jun 04, 2009Owing a lot of its "uniquely" Scandinavian vision to the dry humour and deadpan work of Aki Kaurismaki, and the starkly satirical, single-shot-obsessed Swede Roy Andersson, O'Horten is a slightly amusing satire of aging and retirement. It is communicated in an almost somnambulistic and structurally repetitive manner that seems interested more so in being dryly quirky than truly exploring the directionless nature of retirement that the film implies.
Long, crisp shots, an appealing score from Kaalu and beautiful photography stand out far more than any plot points or any particular "gags," leaving the film as little more than a passing, and often trying, fancy.
Following his retirement from a position as a Norwegian train operator, Odd Horten (Bard Owe) sets out on an aimless journey that involves breaking and entering, blindfolded driving, ski jumping and skinny-dipping at a pool after hours. Each of these scenarios is set up with Odd wandering into a given environment, with little impact or notice, and either falling asleep or being ignored until bemusedly observing or being indirectly involved in some peculiarity or chicanery.
The symbolic implication of feeling useless once a career-based life purpose has been left behind isn't subtle, nor is the notion of the aged being forgotten and overlooked, but Hamer doesn't seem interested in doing anything with these insights aside from simply pointing them out. This may, or may not, be perceived as a flaw given that the movie attempts mainly to be a dry comedy.
The predictable nature of the formula-based set-up eventually overrides the element of surprise that each scenario relies on to create humour. But the initial impact of this structure succeeds in what it attempts to do, which is more than can be said for most intentionally sly comedies. (Mongrel Media)