|I just want to buy my own prints...|
Today we take a look at the last movie on the list – the German/Austrian/Italian film Iceman (Der Mann aus dem Eis) directed by Felix Randau and starring Jürgen Vogel. This movie is interesting for two reasons, first it is set in a very different part of the Stone Age than all our previous films and second it is the only movie on the list that can be considered to be “based on a true story”.
The movie just came out and so this is the first review that is brought to you straight from the theater (yes I sat there writing notes like a total freak).
Setting: The movie takes place 5300 years ago in the Chalcolithic (Copper-Stone-Age) in the Ötztaler Alps in South Tyrol – this is also where most of the movie was shot (as well as in Bavaria and Carinthia). This of course means the archaeological framework for this movie is radically different than for our previous films which where predominantly set in the Paleolithic.
Storyline: After his family is murdered and a holy artifact has been stolen Kelab sets out to avenge them.
My overall impression of the movie was very positive. The entire dialogue is recorded in a reconstructed alpine language (called ancient Raetian) however the plot is very easy to follow and Jürgen Vogel does a great job in the lead role. The story is well paced and has a lot of suspense. If I had one critique it would be that there are a few scenes that just drag on a little too long and interrupt the tension of the plot.
The movie was surprisingly brutal (probably the most gruesome movie on this list) and has some well-choreographed fight scenes involving stone/copper axes as well as archery. Something I also really liked in this movie was the camera work; there are a lot of very nice shots of the landscape that are also worked into the narrative.
If you enjoy movies like Quest for fire I can definitely recommend watching this movie as well!
What is correct?
Since the movie was made in collaboration with the Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum of course most of the artifacts seen are correct. I personally was very impressed with the amount of detail they put into Ötzis clothing and equipment. Everything looks just the way it is supposed to look. The clothing is made from either fur, leather or cloth and for the most part nicely tailored or practically tied, the tools correspond very well with archeological findings, the weapons are realistic (the movie had a very good archery instructor), the houses are built very accurately with wooden structures (like stairs and ladders) at least known from the Bronze age. Since the movie takes place in the Chalcolithic pottery is not only accurate but in fact very important. In the movie most of the pottery items seen belong to the Beaker culture complex (Glockenbecher) – the dominant culture in the Eastern Alps at this time. The involvement of Archaeologists was very obvious here.
Something that was very nice as well was to see the accurate portrayal of prehistoric stock animals, especially the pigs which are correctly portrayed as having fur similar to wild boars rather than the pink skin we are used to today. Throughout the movie there are several shots of Chalcolithic day-to-day activity like weaving, cooking or carpentry that also give a nice realistic touch to the setting.
Since the movie is (kind of) based “on a true story” I should also mention that Ötzi is accurately shown hunting Ibex (which are known to have been his last meal) as well as taking a route similar to the one that was reconstructed for his last days by analyzing the pollen found in his stomach.
What is wrong?
However of course no movie is perfect. In one of my previous reviews I mentioned that many historical movies have the tendency to make the people look like hobos for no reason. This is one of these movies. Seriously you don’t get that dirty just from living outside; it looks like the people in this movie actively smear dirt on their face and arms – because that would be the only reason why the dirt would not just come off from sweating. Additionally for some reason all the women in the movie run around with long untied (and of course dirty) hair. We know that Chalcolithic people (this includes Ötzi himself) brushed and cut their hair – so especially while working they would have probably tied it. There is in fact one female character that appears later in the movie who wears a somewhat realistic hairstyle. Another detail that just does not fit are the burials, while burials in caves as well as cremation (as shown in the movie) do appear they were not the most common form of burial (rather the deceased would be buried in the ground in a crouched position).
Something that I cannot really call “wrong” but just wanted to address was the lack of a distinguishable upper class – as the movie takes place in a quite rural area and not a center of Chalcolithic culture. The issue of metal industry as a source of wealth and power is in no way breached in the movie, which I think is a missed opportunity.
Next time I will give a summary of all the movies I reviewed so far in this series!