“Ex Machina” begins with programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) winning a trip to his boss’s remote estate. He has a hard time believing his luck. A helicopter ride takes him over tundra and forest before he’s dropped off in the middle of a field, surrounded by endless trees and told to follow the river to find the house.
Most of “Ex Machina” takes place in this house — all glass and modernity, surrounded by and integrated into the landscape. A rockface protrudes into the living room, a river skirts the foundation. When Caleb meets his boss, Nathan (Oscar Issac) the CEO says, “You’re freaked out. By the helicopter and the mountains and the house. ‘Cause it’s all so super cool.”
And it is. Very super cool. In a Mubi interview, Ex Machina’s production designer Mark Digby said about the house, “To put it simply, if you see windows, it’s a real location. If you don’t, it’s built.” Which means much of Nathan’s house is real. And you can visit. Well, part of it.
Both locations used for Nathan’s house are in northwestern Norway and both were designed by the same architecture firm, Jensen & Skodvin. The living room, kitchen, a few of the decks are a private residence somewhere along the Storfjord, while the exteriors and many of the big window vistas are from the hotel Juvet about ten miles to the south.
The two locations pick up themes within the movie — blending soft and hard, natural and man-made, enclosed and open. As Digby tells it, they found the hotel first, which had the look and style they wanted but the interiors weren’t quite big enough, so they were told to seek out the hotel’s architect who recommended the private house.
The hotel was built in 2007 and the house in 2013. Both were exceedingly careful not to unnecessarily disturb the natural landscape. Instead of leveling the sites to build foundations, steel rods were drilled into rock, concrete walls were built directly on bedrock, and bolts were used to secure elements of the construction.
If you want to feel like the CEO of a giant tech company, book a night at the Juvet. While you won’t need a helicopter ride, it is about an hour-and-a-half drive inland from the port town of Alesund. They have seven Landscape Houses that go for about $400 per night for two people (breakfast included). Each house is oriented so you get a billionaire’s view without any of the other rooms being able to see in your windows. Which is good, because they don’t come with curtains.