16 July, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
With the market for non-English feature films becoming especially treacherous in North America, an exciting new film from a bonafide European auteur is cause for celebration. Sony Pictures Classics, the successful specialty division of Sony Pictures, has signed a deal securing North American rights to O’Horten, the fifth feature by leading Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer. Hamer is best known in America for his filmed adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s Factotum starring Matt Dillon, and for his highly praised Kitchen Stories, Norway’s 2003 Academy Award entry as Best Foreign Language Film.
O’Horten is a bittersweet tale of train engineer Odd Horten, retiring after 40 years of traveling a very stable rail and now, uneasily, having to adapt to his new life as a pensioner. The film follows Horten through absurd adventures and quirky encounters – bringing much appreciated humor to a subject often treated as tragic. The film is co-produced by Norway’s Bulbul Films and Pandora Filmproduktion of Germany.
The film made its international premiere in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and will have its North American premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was presented to great acclaim last week at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. O’Horten is nominated for seven Amanda Awards (the Norwegian Oscars), which will be announced late next month.
“We are excited to be working on O’Horten and with Bent Hamer, a filmmaker we have long watched and have been eager to forge a relationship with,” Sony Pictures Classics’ co-chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard said in a prepared statement. “Bent has a wonderfully skewed view of the human condition and O’Horten gives us that somewhat absurdist vision with great warmth, a little melancholy and universal understanding.” Sony Pictures Classics is a major distributor for European film titles, with such recent successes as Brick Lane (UK), Persepolis (France), The Counterfeiters (Austria), The Lives Of Others (Germany) and Volver (Spain). The company expects to release O’Horten in early 2009.