Felix Randau / Germany / 2017 / 96 mins
At the Edinburgh Filmhouse from Tues 31 July 2018
This prehistoric action-adventure is a fictitious scenario involving the Neolithic “caveman” whose frozen mummy was discovered in 1991 and called “Otzi”. Here referred to as Kelab, the film follows his journey to recover his village’s holy shrine Tineka, which is stolen during a raid led by an enemy tribe who also kill Kelab’s wife and son.
The film succeeds visually, with the production and costume design providing a seemingly-more accurate depiction of Neolithic life than the likes of One Million Years B.C. with its fur bikini-clad Raquel Welch, favouring simple wooden structures and more detailed costumes to create plausible prehistoric societies and cultures that can be understood without the need for expository dialogue.
Similarly, the cinematography from Jakub Bejnarowicz provides an atmospheric accompaniment to Kelab’s journey across verdant forests and treacherous snow-covered peaks as he searches for his family’s murderers, conveying the harsh, unforgiving nature of the landscape that provides obstacles at every turn for Kelab. Randau also effectively shoots the film’s many action sequences by focusing on providing visual clarity that allows every aspect of the impressive stunt work to be seen. A particular highlight is Kelab scaling the imposing Alps at the film’s climax, which looks as intense as similar sequences in Hollywood productions such as Cliffhanger.
However, the plot is more than a little simplistic, with Kelab’s quest offering little in the way of plot and characterisation that hasn’t already been seen before in countless other action films. Whilst the actors, most notably Jurgen Vogel as Kelab and including spaghetti Western actor Franco Nero, do the best they can with minimal, non-English dialogue, they aren’t provided with anything that effectively showcases their abilities.
Whilst Iceman doesn’t offer anything new narrative-wise, its story of one man seeking revenge makes for an effective action film that substitutes historical accuracy for entertainment.