Some writers struggle with how to end their story. In the case of Iceman (Der Mann aus dem Eis), writer-director Felix Randau had his ending served up in newspaper headlines almost 30 years ago, and his challenge was to come up with an interesting beginning and middle (as well as meaning for the ending). In 1991, at almost 10,000 feet above sea level, a body was discovered. Originally thought to be a missing hiker, it was determined instead to be a 5,300-year-old Neolithic man. Thanks to the ice, he was well-preserved along with his clothes, tools, and supplies.
Nicknamed Otzi, some basic information could be derived about his existence and death. Filmmaker Randau then created a fictional account of his final days, speculating on and imagining the life he led. German actor Jürgen Vogel stars as Kelab (Otzi the Iceman), and we get our first glimpse of native Neolithic life in the community of his clan. The mother of his child dies giving birth, and we see Kelab display a magical box used as a shrine of worship to pay respect. The contents of the box are not revealed until near the end of the film.
While Kelab is out hunting for food, the village is violently attacked. The invasion kills most of the inhabitants and destroys their homes and supplies. Kelab takes the surviving infant with him as he sets off to seek revenge. As he tracks those who attacked, we see him balance his incredibly strong survival instincts with his emotional need for revenge. Another community, led by the legendary Franco Nero, offers Kelab a place to rest and a safe haven for the infant that couldn’t possibly make the trek that lies ahead for his father. The scenery is breathtaking and environment treacherous.
Very little dialogue is spoken, and what there is must be interpreted by the situation. The filmmakers and researchers decided on an early form of Rhaetian for the film, so unless you are a world-renowned linguist, you’ll likely have to join the bulk of viewers in interpreting meaning. Mr. Vogel is quite believable in his performance…at times we forget he’s an actor rather than the Neolithic man he’s portraying.
The costumes and makeup are excellent and realistic, while the setting, scenery, and environment (nature) are the true co-star. We feel the cold and grasp the harsh conditions. This was a violent life…typically out of necessity, yet sometimes out of emotion. Quest for Fire and the brutal elements of The Revenant are recalled; however, Mr. Randau’s dramatized account of Kelab’s last days in pursuit of vengeance are a perfect fit for this coldest of all cold cases. Otzi the Iceman’s preserved mummy can be viewed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.