One man's self-indulgent mid-life crisis-induced camping trip leads to expected revelations.
Out of Nature
Solitude is the name of the game in Ole Giæver’s Out of Nature, a film that burrows deep inside the head of its central character. Martin (Giæver, doing triple duty as writer/director/star) is first seen staring at an old man across his office window in another building, wondering what the man’s life must be like. Martin wonders about his own life, and how, now in his 30’s, he’s not too far off from reaching his 60’s. The scene sets the stage for what’s to come, with the large bulk of the film comprising Martin narrating his vain, silly and bizarre inner thoughts. Giæver’s writing, while feeling specific to his own experiences (the fact that he plays Martin makes the film come across as autobiographical), is strong enough to make his own unfiltered musings feel universal. It’s hard not to find something relatable in the way his thoughts flitter back and forth from one extreme to the next, or how often he impulsively thinks the sort of stuff that could never be said aloud.
At the beginning, Out of Nature shows promise in its portrayal of the minutiae of everyday life. Martin appears to be the definition of an average, middle class citizen, except he doesn’t feel too comfortable in his own skin. He has a hard time relating to coworkers, and his relationships with his wife and son seem ordinary. From the looks of it, Martin’s biggest problem is boredom with his own life. His humdrum existence drives him into planning a weekend camping trip on his own. Martin’s wife and son, who apparently forgot about his trip, say goodbye with a shrug, and Martin heads off to the woods.
With no one around him, Martin delves further into the sorts of questions that quietly nag at him every day. He wonders if he should leave his wife and quit his job. He thinks about what kind of father he’ll be to his son. He also thinks about sex quite a bit, mainly the temptation of living the life of a bachelor again. At one point he fondly remembers his younger days, going out every weekend to get drunk and lucky. The situation he describes doesn’t exactly sound great; he’d frequently go to a girl’s place, be too drunk to perform and wind up heading back home.
Martin’s memory gets to the core of what Out of Nature touches on, mainly the feeling of boredom one gets with stability. All of Martin’s fantasies and ponderings are fueled by the need for a change within his own life. Most of Martin’s issues come from a hesitancy to settle into the life he’s made for himself, as he keeps wondering if he’s denying himself something better. Of course, these sorts of thoughts are common with most people, or at least with men. Martin’s decision to spend the weekend surrounded by nature clearly stems from issues with his own masculinity, and a need to feel in control of his own life.
These ideas certainly aren’t boring, but like Martin they’re pretty ordinary. It’s hard to watch Out of Nature without feeling the strong amount of privilege running through it. At first, Martin’s blathering maintains some interest, but by the end of Out of Nature’sbrief runtime, it’s hard to not think it’s nothing more than a well-off white guy whining about his first world problems. Giæver knows what to say. He just doesn’t know how to work with his material to make a particularly good spin on something that’s been touched on for ages.
Nevertheless, Giæver tries his best. He never tries to make Martin a likable or sympathetic character, offsetting the inherently self-involved nature by routinely humiliating Martin. This extends to Giæver himself, who shows no qualms about baring all. An early scene where a hunter catches Martin masturbating by a tree is made even funnier by just how far Giæver takes things. That sort of disarming level of frankness only goes so far, though. Eventually, Martin meets a young woman on the last night of his trip, and by this point it’s easy to figure out exactly where Out of Nature will wind up once the credits roll. Out of Nature does a good job showing the inside of someone’s mind. Wanting to stay in that person’s head is a whole other story.