The inspiration for German writer-director Felix Randau’s brutal little curio came in the form of a 5,300-year-old corpse. Namely Ötzi, found mummified in Tyrolian glacial ice by a pair of hikers in 1991. Studies revealed a lot about this man’s life – how old he was (45), where he lived, that he was lactose-intolerant – but exactly what killed him remains a mystery.
Enter Randau and his fictionalised yet painstaking account of Ötzi’s – here named Kelab (Jürgen Vogel) – final days. Story-wise, there isn’t much to chew on: raiders assault Kelab’s village, kill his wife and kids and make off with the clan’s precious thing, a holy MacGuffin whose retrieval motivates the hairy hunter as much as revenge. A surviving baby complicates his treacherous trek over the mountains, but not as much as nature itself. There’s an implacability to the jagged terrain that we know will eventually swallow him.
There’s an enthralling depth of detail here. Randau is determined to present Neolithic life faithfully, right down to the language. Everyone speaks Rhaetic and you won’t understand a word of it because there are no subtitles. Not that you’d need them; dialogue is sparse and you get the gist anyway.
The movie ‘Iceman’ feels closest to is ‘The Revenant’, right down to its long, single-take presentation of the raid. It’s by no means as absorbing or visceral, but at least earns the comparison in a novel, cut-price manner.