Iceman review – revenge served cold'n'bloody

Felix Randau’s violent drama reconstructs the life and death of a man found preserved in ice 5,000 years later

In 1991, two tourists hiking in the Austrian Alps made a staggering discovery: a 5,000-year-old man almost perfectly preserved in the ice, with clothes and shoes made from furs and animal-hide. He had a distinctive copper axe, an arrowhead lodged in his body and traces of what were subsequently found to be four different types of blood on him. Clearly, he had died a violent and dramatic death. What can have led to it?

This movie from German writer-director Felix Randau makes a bold attempt at imaginative reconstruction. It is harrowingly brutal, drenched in male violence, with unsubtitled dialogue grunted in the obscure language of early Rhetian, believed to have been in use there at that time. The result is something like a revenge western crossed with something, not prehistoric, but post-historic – it is similar to a postapocalyptic drama such as The Road.

The iceman (played by Jürgen Vogel) returns home from hunting to find that three marauders (led by the reliably sinister André Hennicke) have raped and murdered almost everyone in his settlement – although they have overlooked the newborn infant we saw being delivered in an earlier scene. They have also made off with a wooden case containing something mysteriously unseen: a proto-religious fetish of enormous significance to the iceman. So he goes off with the baby snuggled up in his furry jacket, the child being fed by the nanny goat he has with him, on what is basically a Hollywood revenge quest, shot in sweeping alpine vistas. Franco Nero has a cameo as an enigmatic figure who shows him kindness.

It’s a reasonably engaging movie, but based on very familiar filmic archetypes. The truth behind the iceman’s death may have been far stranger, far less explicably motivated, than we can possibly imagine.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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