How odd is Odd? When we meet Odd Horten, he is driving the Oslo-Bergen express train through a blue-white snowy landscape. (This opening-credits sequence is gorgeous: each dive into a tunnel, each returning plunge through a circle of searing white, is a cinematic marvel.) But a young railroad employee catching a ride up front with Odd finds that it's very hard to draw him into conversation. Questions and comments get monosyllabic replies, if any. Why is that?
When we get a good look at Odd's face, we don't gather many more clues. You wouldn't say that this looks like a man wrestling with inner demons. Odd is a healthy-looking 67-year-old, about to retire after spending nearly 40 years driving trains. He doesn't look depressed or angry, not struggling with some tormenting memory, nothing like that. He's just silent. What makes him like this?
Well, it's because he was written that way. In Odd Horten, Bent Hamer (both director and screenwriter) has given us a character who is taciturn and reserved, and thus an ideal foil for any number of zany incidents. One sequence unfolds this way: Odd falls asleep while taking a sauna, and wakes to discover he is alone inside the closed health club. He uses the opportunity to take a nude swim in the darkened pool. (Terrific photography here, as always: overhead shots of the dark shape of his body slicing through the water above the pool's turquoise floor.) But then Odd hears laughter, and pops up his head to see a young couple embracing and disrobing for their own midnight swim. He escapes without their notice, but while dressing discovers that his boots have been stolen.
In the next shot, Odd is walking down a snowy street in red pointy-toe high-heeled boots. He stops to speak to a drunk ...1
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