O’HORTEN (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 1, 2009 by  

“A film that manages to capture your attention due to the performance of actor Bard Owe.  Director Bent Hamer brings us an entertaining and enjoyable film straight from Norway and with an intriguing storyline, beautiful cinematography and moving music, the fine balance of the film definitely made ‘O’HORTEN’ quite enjoyable.  ‘O’HORTEN’ is one of those films with a rare quality that you just don’t see in cinema these days and to watch something so fresh and different was fantastic.  Definitely a film worth recommending!”

Images courtesy of ©2007, 2009 BulBul Film As. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: O’Horten


DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Norwegian 5.1 (Dolby Digital), English and French subtitles

RATED: PG-13 (For Brief Nudity)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2009

Written and Directed by Brent Hamer

Executive Producer Jim Frazee and Mads Peter Ole Olsen

Producer: Bent Hamer

Co-Producer: Karl Baumgartner, Christoph Friedel, Alexandre Mallet-Guy

Line Producer:  Catho Bach Christensen

Music by John Erik Kaada

Cinematography by John Christian Rosenlund

Edited by Pal Gengenbach

Casting by Mette Holme Nielsen

Production Design by Karl Juliusson

Set Decoration by Olivier Marcouiller

Costume Design by Anne Pedersen


Baard Owe as Odd Horten

Espen Skjonberg as Trygve Sissener

Ghita Norby as Fru Thogersen

Henny Moan as Svea

Bjorn Floberg as Flo

Kai Remlow as Steiner Sissener

Per Jansen as Lokforer

Bjarte Hjelmeland as Konduktor

The moment the train leaves the station without engineer Odd Horten (Bard Owe) aboard, he realizes the path ahead is a journey without printed timetables and well-known stations. Horten has been forced to retire after 40 years of traveling a very stable rail, and the platform does not feel like a safe place anymore. His orderly, solitary existence is about to give way to a future of unlikely adventures and puzzling dilemmas: will Horten ever travel by plane? Will he finally sell his prized boat? How does Horten end up in a pair of women’s red high-heeled shoes? Will he survive a nighttime drive with a blindfolded man at the wheel? O’HORTEN is Bent Hamer’s wonderfully skewed view of the human condition, and gives us that somewhat absurdist vision with great warmth, a little melancholy and universal appeal.

In 2007, the Norwegian film “O’HORTEN” was released in theaters and achieved critical acclaim.  The film is written and directed by Bent Hamer (“Factotum”, “Kitchen Stories”) and is joined by composer John Erik Kaada (“Solitude”, “Natural Born Star”, “Dead Weight Night”) and cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund (“Venus & Mars”, “Factotum”, “DeUsynlige”).

The film revolves around a 67-year old man named Odd Horten (Bard Owe), a train conductor who is retiring after 40-years of service.  Having dedicated his life to his work,  his routine has been quite repetitive throughout his life and not to say the least, Odd is a man who really doesn’t partake in any outside activities but his job, smoking his pipe and taking care of his bird at home.   As he prepares to make his last train ride from Oslo to Bergen, he visits his friend Svea, who owns the boarding house that he stays at when at Bergen and she sees it as possibly a final goodbye between the both of them.

On the final night before the day of his final train ride, his fellow engineers give him a farewell party, something he doesn’t enjoy so much since he doesn’t like the attention.    But while the party is being held, he skips out to buy some tobacco.  But when he returns to the area where the party is being held, the place is locked.  So, he ends up breaking into an apartment of another family through the window, so he can get into the building.  But while inside, he confronts a boy who wants him to sit next to him until he sleeps.  Otherwise, if he doesn’t…he will create a ruckus.  So, Odd ends up accidentally sleeping through the morning but realizing that he is missing his final day on the job.  By the time he manages to exit the apartment, it is too late… Odd Horten…in his 40-years as a train conductor, has missed a day on the job.

Dejected and knows that he must begin a new stage in his life, without a job…  Odd’s routine is broken and doesn’t know how to live his life normally.  So, we see Odd Horten in a variety of situations as he visits his mom at a nursing home (in which we learn that she loves ski jumping and has hoped for Odd to do it when he was younger), he tries to visit old friend at a store where he buys his pipe, tries to sell a boat and somehow ends up being arrested by airport security, goes to a local pool where he skinny dips (where he hopes that no one is around), his usual restaurant hangout and other things that make him think about his life and what he can do now.

But its when he meets a man named Trygve Sissener, that will help Odd realize things about himself and his life and what he wants to do.


“O’HORTEN” is featured in Anamorphic Widescreen (1:85:1).  One thing that caught my attention was John Christian Rosenlund’s cinematography and his ability to capture the scenes quite effectively, to the point that something that can be so drab, actually looks quite beautiful onscreen.  From a shot of a train going through the snowy trail from Oslo to Bergen, Odd sitting at his restaurant hangout, swimming at the pool.  There are really good cinematic shots and for the most part, the picture quality for the DVD is very good.  I didn’t notice any major compression artifacting, nor did I notice any major dust or scratches during the film.

As for audio, the audio is presented in Norwegian 5.1 (Dolby Digital) and for the most part, the film is dialogue driven and front and center channel-driven.  I did notice certain scenes with the train utilizing the surround channels but for the most part, dialogue and accompanying background music courtesy of Composer Erik Kaada is through the front and centers.  Dialogue is clear and understandable, as with the music.

Subtitles are in English and French.  English subtitles are nice, bold yellow fonts and are easy to read.


“O’HORTEN” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Director Bent Hamer and Composer Erik Kaada – (11:02) Kjetil Lismoen Interviews the director and composer, English subtitles included. Director Bent Hamer talks about his goal with the film and what the concept is about.  And Erik Kaada talks about working with Bent Hamer and coming up with the music for the film.
  • O’HORTEN Soundtrack – Just a static page with info.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:15) The original theatrical trailer
  • Previews – Sony previews for “Blu-ray Disc is High Definition”, “It Might Get Loud”, “An Education, “12”, “The Class” and more.

“O’HORTEN” is an interesting film that covers the unknown after retiring and in this case, for the character of Odd Horten, in just a short amount of time, how a man’s regular routine is finished due to retiring but the feeling of looking back and experiencing emotions of regret, sadness, loneliness and one trying to find himself.

What makes “O’HORTEN” enjoyable is for one, it’s a more realistic film but the main character, although not trying to be funny, gets himself into situations that quite interesting despite his demeanor on his face, still staying stern and reserved.  Happiness, sadness…his face stays the same.  May it be a man who is caught by airport security to a man finding out that his boots in his locker have been replaced by ruby red high heeled boots, he accepts things as they are despite the viewer being entertained by the situations that he has gotten himself into.

But where the film does hit hard on the viewer is that his emotions are emotions that many people will go through at one or several times in their life.  Taking the next step in life and not knowing where your life is headed and looking back and wondering to yourself, “what if” or not looking at one’s age and still taking advantage of life to its fullest.

The ending sequence to “O’HORTEN” has been interpreted in various ways by viewers and I rather not mention it, since I don’t want to spoil the film but may the viewer look at things tragically or happily, “O’HORTEN” is a film that just captures your attention through its storyline and pacing, beautiful cinematography and music and of course, a wonderful performance from Bard Owe with his deadpan humor as Odd Horten.

The DVD of “O’HORTEN” is not loaded with special features but for the most part, the film looks very good on DVD (I can imagine how much beautiful this film would look via High Definition on Blu-ray) and audio comes out nice and clear through your front and center channel speakers.

Overall, I found the film quite entertaining and although I’m not sure if younger viewers will take a liking to it but for adult and mature viewers can definitely find the film to be of a rare quality and for me, to find something so fresh and different is definitely wonderful.

One can easily find the underlying message within “O’HORTEN” and for the most part, come out feeling at the end as the film being insightful, charming and for the most part, entertaining.  Perhaps, even thought provoking depending on the viewer because even for me, I was touched by the film and its message of living life to its fullest.

“O’HORTEN” on DVD is definitely recommended!

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