Felix Randau (director)
Bulldog Film Distribution (studio)
17 September 2018 (released)
24 September 2018
This engaging film imagines live and death of ‘Ötzi the Iceman’ – so called because this oldest known human mummy was found 1991 in the Tyrolean Ötztal Alps about 5,300 years after his brutal death. ICEMAN is a Neolithic ‘murder mystery’ of sorts, with Jürgen Vogel in the title role, attempting to come up with a possible (if most likely fictional) explanation concerning Ötzi’s death.
There is very little dialogue in the film and the few sentences are spoken in ancient Rhaetian language (sans subtitles). That said, the lack of subtitles really doesn’t matter as we are in for a relatively straightforward plot. A small clan has settled nearby a creek in the Alps and Kelab (J. Vovel) is their leader. His position doesn’t only demand looking after the clan but he is also the ‘keeper’ of Tineka – the group’s holy shrine (though the shrine in question seems not much more than a wooden box containing a shiny agate stone). As the clan members go about their daily lives, a baby is born but the mother dies in childbirth – cue for some ‘pagan burial’ rituals followed by bizarre ‘baptizing’ rites. Kelab’s partner Kisis (Susanne Wuest) looks after the infant. One day, while Kelab is out hunting, the settlement is attacked by three pilfering marauders who spare no one - even the children find a brutal death except Kelab and Kisis’ young son who manages to run away while holding the infant to his chest. One of the marauders spots him and shoots an arrow but the boy keeps on running despite being hit. Deciding not to pursue the boy further, the marauder and the his two mates instead focus on robbing and stealing whatever they can before burning down the remaining huts. Among the trophies is Tineka. Meanwhile, Kelab can see smoke and flames from afar and hurries back only to find his fatally wounded wife dying and Tineka missing. Overcome by anger and grief he buries the corpses (or what’s left of them) in a nearby cave and also finds his son who has found shelter underneath a rock or so it would seem. Kelab then realises that his son has succumbed to his injuries but the infant is still alive. Together with one female goat and baby bundled up safely in a Neolithic ‘baby carrier’, Kelab leaves the place of horror with but one agenda on his mind: Revenge!
So begins his odyssey across the Alps in search of the murderers and above all in search of the stolen holy shrine. Hampered by extreme weather conditions and at times unforgiving terrain, Kelab stumbles across three few men camping in the forest. Mistaking them for the marauders he begins attacking them and kills one while another one is badly wounded and the third one bound to a tree with a rope. However, after having inspected their belongings Kelab realises his terrible mistake: the men are not the murderers. Kelab sets the young man free by cutting the rope but realises that the other man, whom he believed to be badly wounded, somehow managed to escape – and ultimately this will have consequences.
Still not giving up hope to bring the real culprits to justice Kelab continues his journey, feeding the infant with goat’s milk. During one of his epic walks he passes a hut inhabited by an old men called Ditob (Franco Nero) and a young woman who is either his daughter or his partner. Ditob offers Kelab food and shelter for the night and the next day he continues his journey albeit without the infant – it has been decided that it’s safer for the baby if the young woman looks after him.
And so Kelab continues his journey across icy landscapes and eventually finds himself attacked by the perpetrators in what turns out to be one brutal and bloody confrontation. Two of the three marauders manage to escape and it is from thereon that Kelab’s mission, despite a growing sense of doubt, turns into a truly testing and dangerous journey…
Filming ICEMAN must have been exhausting to say the least, and the acting more so! Jürgen Vogel, whose character Kelab is based on Ötzi, delivers a remarkable performance as a man torn between grief, raw emotions and thirst for bloody revenge while the rest of the cast – little or no dialogue as they have – at the very least look the part. The real star, however, is Jakub Bejnarowicz’s and his skilled cinematography: without the breath-taking camera angles and the overall landscape photography ICEMAN would begin to melt halfway through.