Most of the Norwegian film O’Horten is set at night, in the kind of in-between time you get on a stroll down a tree-lined sidestreet. Freshly retired from driving trains, Odd Horten (Bård Owe) drifts through an assortment of curious encounters, in what’s ostensibly a sketch of a meek fellow suddenly without an intercity route to call his own. But rather than a mere arrangement of mid-winter Scando-quirk, Owe and writer-director Bent Hamer present a man in whom serenity and life-molding diffidence are equally present.
In Odd’s wanders through dim streets and warm interiors, O’Horten has its share of rhymes-with-bedpan oddity, viewed with a pipe-smoking contemplation. Odd (which, before you throw this across the room, is an actual Norwegian name) tries to sell his boat, goes to a public sauna and pool, even visits his favorite pipe shop, where he’s greeted by the ex-owner’s widow with thorough secondhand familiarity. Ultimately meeting with a rare bird who claims to be able to drive blindfolded seems to draw a line between Odd and truly odd.
Albeit less than with his previous film, the Bukowski adaptation Factotum, Hamer benefits from an actor who’s interesting to watch watching, and Owe looks appropriately weathered and preserved at once. Odd’s inherited ambition to ski-jump and possible love interest come to the fore a little too readily and generically when a sighing end to the nocturnal wanderings would do, but Hamer does make a terrific cut linking the railman’s tunnel-navigating past and upwards-looking future.