Norway's O'Horten made its Portland debut last fall at the Portland International Film Festival—and as it's undeniably a "foreign movie about old people," it's very possible that plenty of moviegoers under the age of 35 missed this weird, moving little film the first time around. O'Horten sets out to disprove an equation that young folk calculate each time we see an old person eating a tuna melt by themselves, paying bus fare in nickels, or filling a shopping basket with single serving soup cans and cat food: elderly + alone = depressing.
The film's title character, Odd Horten (Baarde Owe), is retiring after a 40-year career spent operating a train. It's clear that he's a private man, though friendly enough—but when he breaks habit to go out for drinks with his coworkers on his last day of work, he finds himself locked out of the apartment building where his colleagues are meeting. His solution? To climb some construction scaffolding and enter the apartment building through an open window, where he finds himself in the bedroom of a young boy, awake, who insists that Odd stay until the child falls asleep. The nerve-wracking scene that ensues sets the pace for the rest of this strange and endearing little film, as the observant and impassive Odd moves from one understated-but-outlandish situation to the next.
Director Bent Hamer's offbeat sense of humor is thrown into strange relief against the film's chilly, windswept backdrop—as though jokes are told, but the snow muffles any laughter. And through it all, a sense of anticipation ever threatens to tip into menace. O'Horten is a strange little movie about a man puzzling out what it means to live when life as he's known it for 40 years has abruptly changed—and far from depressing, it's full of mystery, humor, and possibility.