A Norwegian film. We follow the 30-something Martin while he is running through the forest, alone. We hear all his private thoughts. Will he come back to his standard family and office job?
The Norwegian film Mot Naturen is released now internationally as Out of Nature and is written, directed and acted by the same guy: Ole Giæver. And when you see the final product, it is clear that Giæver’s great personal control over the film has created a tightly-focused work with a strong vision behind it. Giæver’s earlier movie The Mountain (2011) also, like this one, featured hikes in nature, and with Out of Nature he wanted to take the next step and focus himself totally on one hike made by a single character named Martin, while we hear Martin’s inner monologue.
From the first scenes, Martin’s inner thoughts are spoken out loud, and they determine the mood and rhythm of the film. He is sitting in front of the window and he wonders whether he will end up as the guy he is observing: a gray man who has been working in the same office for his whole life. He also worries about his marriage that has lost its passion, and about the lack of connection he feels with his little son. Martin’s thoughts are rather vulgar, but so very recognizable too. He thinks the lines that you normally don’t speak aloud because they would be impolite. This makes the movie very accessible and funny, but sometimes also painfully honest.
The plot is quickly explained: Martin is unhappy with his family and his office job. The expectations and responsibilities weigh heavily on him and make him feel stuck. He thinks to himself: “I still feel young. I could still start over”, and he decides to spend a weekend in the mountains to get away from daily life. At first, this sounds similar to A Walk in the Woods (2015), but Out of Nature takes a different path. What Giæver has done very well is to show, via the thoughts of Martin, how nature has an effect on our moods. When Martin starts his hike, he is still preoccupied with the stress of daily life, but the deeper he travels into nature, the deeper his thoughts go to what really matters, and he starts asking himself: “what happened with the Martin of the past?” Sometimes, all his thoughts stop, and he is just a human at play with nature.
The images of the spectacular Norwegian landscapes and his monologue fit together very well, and there is a good pace and rhythm. Giæver switches between the forest and occasional flashbacks to moments in Martin’s life, or to sound fragments and well-chosen songs. We hear “you’ll never walk alone” while martin is indeed walking alone, and the text sounds more admissive than supportive. Using this rhythm of the guy’s daydreams and images from his part, Giæver sketches out his character while the film is running.
The silence in the forest really forces Martin to start thinking about his life, and the hike turns into some kind of rebirth in which he returns to who he really is. The film takes this idea so literally that we frequently see him naked in the forest in comic situation. This also spawned some provocative marketing for the film. Near the end, the film turns darker and starts to balance between comedy and drama. If he goes back to his wife and kids, would that be a disappointment? Would that be a defeat?
Like the Norwegian nature, this film is beautiful and accessible, but can be cold and dark. It is so honest that it touches a lot of insecurities that many people recognize. It’s simple and raw, and will make everyone think.