Cannes ‘08: Kenneth Turan talks to ‘O’ Horten’ director Bent Hamer

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As the 2008 Festival de Cannes grinds toward its conclusion, there is a consensus on one point: There haven’t been a lot of happy stories on the screen, with one conspicuous exception: Bent Hamer’s small wonder, the luminous and deliciously funny ‘O’Horten.’ As the director says, ‘You have to give the audience a good time now and then.’

Those who remember an earlier Hamer creation, the knockout ‘Kitchen Stories,’ know exactly the kind of good time ‘O’Horten’ delivers. His combination of humor and melancholy, the Norwegian director notes, is a mixture that can be recognized in many Nordic films.


The Horten of the story is a stolid, pipe-smoking Norwegian train engineer (played by the veteran Bard Owe, whose career goes all the way back to Carl Theodor Dryer’s classic ‘Gertrude’). His first name is Odd, which, the director says, is ‘a very common name in Norway. I know the meaning of the word in English, and that doesn’t hurt.’

Forced to retire at 67, Odd enters into a series of inimitable, serendipitous adventures that show him the necessity as well as the absurdity of embracing life in all its quirky grandeur. ‘If you think the thought, it is possible to do anything,’ Hamer says. ‘It’s never too late.’

--Kenneth Turan

Photo: Patricia Williams