Skip to main content

Early Man in Motion Picture

There is a period of time we are familiar with acronym "BC". It stands, of course, for "Before Christ", the period before the famous tale about origin of Christian religion. But this time goes far behind Jesus. Far beyond origin of all monotheistic religions. It goes even before the eons when our ancestors knew gods in plural and to the ages when modern humans started their everlasting and ongoing endeavors. The time in prehistory occupied with endless wonders of surrounding nature without firm beliefs but surely filled with many invisible divine spirits and mysterious stars.

Due to illiteracy of the period there's almost nothing tangible we could use to gain full knowledge of how early society really looked like and even though we know great deal about those times only by analyzing cave walls, fossil record and DNA samples, in order to describe one early settlement we still must use lots of imagination and scientific guesses.

Personally and definitely caused by the mystery of the ancient times I do enjoy to read and in this case to watch fictitious stories about early people, events and how everything was in the beginning. Hence and if we stay in the realm of motion pictures, I want to share four movie recommendations from the rather small pile of films covering prehistory free of wild imagination that might be anthropologically correct. So, lets start in, appropriately suitable, chronological and descending order, starting with the latest film about the earliest period of prehistory in all four movies. The story about first joint adventures of man and man's best friends. The wolfs. Well... You know... The dogs.

Portraying Europe at the end of the Pleistocene epoch some 20000 years ago, Alpha is telling an adventurous story of Keda, a teenage boy on his first hunting trip and Alpha, first domesticated wolf. They struggle to survive the harsh environment of the last ice age and along the way learn to enjoy new special friendship among two species. Something we are taking for granted in our very contemporary age. Three things about this movie are fascinating - for one, there are no human villains in the film and this is amazing for nowadays movies and yet the story works just as perfect. Secondly, I learned something I didn't know - Alpha was played by real Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, a mix between German shepherd and real Carpathian wolves created for military purposes. I always admired German shepherds but I have to say that this relatively new breed is really magnificent in every way. Finally, the language they used is a fictional one - fully developed for the movie by Christine Schreyer, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia who used three ancestral languages in the process and this effort alone gave the movie a genuine and really extraordinary feeling.

Next two movies went even further in the past. The set was still Eurasian continent and the time could be estimated some 30-40K BC where one of the kind event in the history of two dominant species happened. It was the time when our ancestors started to populate the area that was already taken by Neanderthals. Barely compatible, this caused the death of the weakest and unprepared party in conflict. It is still a mystery what was exactly happening in those shared period that probably lasted hundreds or more likely thousands of years but in the aftermath just like proposed in one of the movies, Neanderthals suffered and died out from both major issues - their bodies were totally unprepared for new diseases humans unknowingly delivered and also equally important, their minds couldn't stand or understand the violent behavior of newcomers.

Ao, le dernier Néandertal and The Clan of the Cave Bear are both dealing with collision of two dominant humanoid species of the time only from different angle. In first, Ao was a desperate Neanderthal man whose family was brutally murdered by modern humans and he was forced to seek his life elsewhere and find happiness with homo sapiens woman. The movie offers outstanding performances by Aruna Shields and especially Simon Paul Sutton who portrayed the story with one word - perfectly. The same goes for Jean Auel's first book of the "Earth's Children" series and the movie with the same name. Here, the script is the opposite and follows young girl Ayla who finds shelter within Neanderthal clan. It's hard to say which film is more appealing, historically accurate, better performed and made but if you choose to watch them, entertainment filled with drama, adventure and even romance is guarantied.

Finally, if we go even further to the past, more or less 80000 years ago, in the time of tribal societies where the fire was luxury and hard to find, the last film recommendation was the oldest movie of them all. Quest for Fire was filmed back in 1981 and it was my first movie I watched from this genre. I remember I was fascinated with scenes with mammoths who were played by circus elephants in full wardrobe and trained lions in role of saber-toothed tigers. In short, three cavemen are sent in the quest to find the fire for which they still don't have the knowledge of how to start it. The quest turned into real adventure and what they learned and returned to their cave was priceless. And I am not talking just about fire. Enough said.


© 2023 Milan's Public Journal