It’s very tricky to pull off something as conceptually minimalist as “Out of Nature,” which makes this nearly one-man-show by writer-director-star Ole Giaever all the more refreshing in its modest but genuine achievement. Near-plotless pic about a dissatisfied man spending a weekend hiking alone is driven by his stream-of-consciousness voiceover, and might easily have seemed pretentious or self-indulgent without the deft, gently comedic touch that Giaever (and longtime collaborator Marte Void, billed separately as co-director) bring to it. Commercial export prospects for this Norwegian feature are minor, but it should have a solid festival run leading to some home-format pickups.
First seen (and, always, heard) speculating about the boring lives of people he spies from his office window, Martin (Giaever) doesn’t know what he wants — just that whatever he’s got already isn’t enough. This encompasses not only a dull job and frivolous co-workers, but also his home life, with his marriage to Sigrid (Marie Magnusdotter Solem) having settled into a rut, and the easy rapport she shares with their young son eluding him. Neither appears the least concerned when he reminds that he’s off on one of his solo expeditions this weekend — clearly they can, and do, get along fine without him.
With just a daypack, fit Martin jogs into local mountains, his mind wandering as it will in incessant soundtrack voiceover. Where it goes is not at all original — the conjugal bed having apparently gone cold, he has sex on the brain a lot — but it’s precisely the fussy, ordinary, even banal nature of his preoccupations that lend them amusement as well as a certain pathos. He’s basically experiencing a standard midlife crisis at age 35 or so, worried that he’s somehow missing out on a more “free” existence while having no particularly bright ideas on what that might entail.
Brief memory glimpses of a childhood spent in the company of an emotionally remote father suggest the roots of his mildly neurotic detachment. (There are also fleeting depictions of alternate scenarios he imagines for himself.) But “Out of Nature” wisely doesn’t try to psychoanalyze or otherwise explain Martin, instead letting his often random, trivial inner thoughts speak for themselves.
Almost nothing “happens” here, and when something finally does — at a remote lodge, Martin encounters a young woman (Rebekka Nystabakk) who offers exactly the kind of spontaneous diversion he thought he wanted — the pic actually seems a little less distinctive than before. The low-key resolution comes as no surprise, but is still an effective conclusion to our restless protag’s short, abortive attempt to flee the nest he’s made for himself.
As an actor (mostly onscreen alone, as nearly all other parts are little more than cameos), Giaever is humorously self-effacing, making Martin a likable enough, attractive enough yet profoundly wishy-washy protag who’s much more like everyone else than he’d like to think. As helmer, likewise: A premise this amorphous requires very careful handling to sustain interest, and it’s to their credit that Giaever’s direction, Frida Eggum Michaelsen’s editing and other principal contributions are almost invisible in their effectiveness. D.p. Oystein Mamen eschews the distraction that postcard-pretty lensing would have afforded, though the diverse beauty of the wilderness landscapes traversed comes across all the same.