Brutal and breathtaking. My editor is going to hate me for saying this, but really you should see it as I did. You should know nothing going in. Just find this film and watch it, which might be difficult. If you Alta Vista’d it, you might find the crime thriller starring Michael Shannon, or the Chinese fantasy epic starring Donny Yen, or the 1984 film starring Timothy Hutton. But if you put in the original German title Der Mann aus dem Eis, then you’d find this under the radar foreign gem starring Jurgen Vögel.
For those of you who stuck around the basic story goes like this. Kelab is a Neolithic man. He is a hunter, a father, and the keeper of his tribe’s holy place. His life is simple, hard, and (for the most part) good. While he is out hunting, his tribe is attacked by strangers. They kill everyone they can find and burn his village to the ground. Miraculously a baby survives. Kelab has to keep the baby alive while tracking the people who the attackers.
“Miraculously a baby survives. Kelab has to keep the baby alive while tracking the people who the attackers.”
Now we’ve seen movies based on books. We’ve seen movies based on comic books. We’ve seen movies based on concept albums, video games, and even board games. But, this might be the first movie based on an archeological find. Iceman is based on the oldest natural human mummy ever found. The action and drama were inspired by the wounds and injuries found on the body. It is (of course) a dramatization, and the filmmakers do (of course) take liberties. This is, after all, a drama, not a documentary. (of course)
Filmed in the Bavarian hillsides, Iceman is a gorgeous film. Beautiful snow-capped vistas, lush green valleys, and clear rushing streams that somehow make the brutality of the story all the more horrific. The world of Iceman is undeniably beautiful, but at the same times, a cold and unforgiving place where a horrific death could come at any moment.
This is a movie that delights in being unpredictable. Every time you think you have a handle on a character, or where the story is going, Iceman throws you a curve ball. Of course, if I give you an example, it would ruin the surprise. What I can say is that no matter what you think is going to happen next, you are wrong. Just wrong. Stop trying to second guess the movie. Just enjoy it.
“…what little there is happens to be spoken in an ancient dead dialect with no subtitles.”
There is very little dialogue. And what little there is happens to be spoken in an ancient dead dialect with no subtitles. But don’t’ worry. The story is so easy to follow, and Jurgen Vögel is such a good actor, you will find that you don’t miss them.
Speaking of Herr Vögel, he makes such a complete transformation in this film that I failed to recognize one of the biggest stars of German cinema for most of the film. He delivers an astonishingly layered and nuanced performance. Despite the lack of coherent dialogue, there isn’t a moment you don’t know exactly what the character of Kelab is feeling. Rich, complex, conflicting emotions conveyed with little more than a certain look or the set of his jaw.
In the end, Der Mann aus dem Eis or Iceman is one of those movies that makes me glad to be a reviewer. I cannot recommend it highly enough and suggest you go see it right now.
Iceman (2019) Directed by Felix Randau. Written by Felix Randau. Starring Jurgen Vögel, Andre Hennicke, Susanne Wuest.
10 of 10