Ex-Machina | 2015
The first film directed by novelist Alex Garland, who wrote The Beach, and the scripts for 28 Days Later… and Sunshine, is the quietly sinister examination of artificial intelligence that Steven Spielberg’s disappointing AI significantly wasn’t.
Computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the chance to spend a week with his company’s reclusive CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a genius who at the age of 13 had coded the world’s largest search engine – no, not that one – but one called BlueBook.
Caleb works at BlueBook’s sleek offices, which in actuality are those of the Bloomberg financial company at 50 Finsbury Square, London EC2, built in 2000 by Norman Foster & Partners.
He’s taken by helicopter to Nathan’s retreat in ‘Alaska’ where, on signing a non-disclosure agreement, he’s invited to perform the Turing Test on a ‘female’ robot Ava (Alicia Vikander). Don't worry – it's not going all 50 Shades. The object of the test, named after computer pioneer Alan Turing, the scientist played by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, is to determine whether a computer is manifesting true consciousness.
Nathan’s hi-tech compound is a mix of two real locations in Norway, near the town of Valldal, plus some studio-built interiors.
Fjora House, which is a private residence, and the Juvet Landscape Hotel were both designed by the same team of Norwegian architects, Jensen & Skodvin, and are blended seamlessly together on screen to become one house.
One of the most distinctive features of Fjora House is the incorporation of the rock on which it’s based, which cuts into the corners of the living room and into the plate glass windows.
The larger Juvet Landscape Hotel offered a more expansive space, and features a glass-walled sauna that looks out into the Norwegian wilderness.
The Juvet is the first landscape hotel in Europe, situated in the farmyard of Burtigarden farm at Alstad in Valldal, among birch aspen and pine trees, on a steep, natural levee.
The landscape rooms are seven small ‘cubes‘ on stilts, blending in with the natural environment, to give splendid views of the river, valley, the courtyard or the gorge below.
The hotel is located on the northwest coast of Norway, in Norddal municipality, approximately 90 minutes driving from Ålesund, one hour from Åndalsnes via Trollstigen, and one hour from Geiranger. Direct flights from several international airports will take you to Ålesund Airport Vigra, in addition to daily flights from the largest cities in Norway.
More interiors, including the observation room in which Caleb watches Ava, while Nathan monitors both of them, were built on stage at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, to match the Norwegian locations and using blue-screen technology to add in the landscape through the windows.
In a brief respite from the confines of the house, Nathan and Caleb visit the majestic Grønfossen Waterfall in Grøndalen, south of Route E136, about 30 miles east of the Juvet Hotel.