It is based off the book of the same name by Belgian author J. It is set in Paleolithic Europe, around 80, years ago, and concerns a small group of cavemen as they search for the fire their tribe needs to survive, not knowing how to produce it themselves.
Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The film did an excellent job of showing that life for people at the time was basically a daily fight for survival and that humans were also not the dominant species on the planet. However, it is unlikely there would be such differently evolved tribes living in such close proximity to each other and there is some misplaced wildlife.
Had this not been written in it would've likely been a very dull story. The Ivaka happen to take a liking to Naoh and end up sending most of their women to his hut for sex, much to his initial confusion. The Ivaka mate face to face, and Naoh can't figure out why the first woman is lying face-up, until she finally catches on and turns over onto all fours. The novel presented two human species: In the film, there seems to be several different species running around, with the Ulam looking and behaving much more primitive than H.
All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: The Kzamm are definitely Neanderthals, but the Ulam are more ambiguous, and the Ivaka are clearly Homo sapiens. The Wagabu are shaggy and bestial, suggesting a more primitive species of hominid. In contrast to the light-skinned Ulam and Kzamm, Ika and the Ivaka tribe cover their entire bodies in paint and have noticeably non-Caucasian features.
Ika is played by Rae Dawn Chong , who is mixed raced. The director wanted the Ivaka to not conform to the appearance of any single ethnic group, in that they're a tribe of Cro-Magnons who predate modern ethnicities.
An Arm and a Leg: When the trio first meet the Kzamm, they have captured Ika and her mate and are hanging them upside down from a tree like game. The next morning, his arm has been amputated and eaten by the cannibals.
Ika manages to free them both, but he immediately collapses and dies of his injuries, leaving her alone with no recourse but to join the trio on their quest. His death is not entirely obvious, making the scene somewhat ambiguous. The sabre-toothed cats are portrayed by lions wearing false fangs. Real sabre-toothed cats were physically very different from modern big cats. The Ulam have a very limited language and no real concept of verbal consent, so when Amouker grabs Ika without permission, she resists and Naoh stops him By the closing scene, Ika has become pregnant with Naoh's child.
An odd example in a film with so much casual nudity: Bears Are Bad News: Gaw is severely mauled by a cave bear. Naoh is the most handsome member of Ulam, and he is our primary hero. Our heroine Ika conforms to modern sensibilities of attractiveness, being sleek and slender, while her tribe prefers women that would be considered obese by conventional modern tastes.
By contrast, the villains of the film, including the rival tribes of sub-humans and the treacherous members of the Ulam, are all ugly. Seems to be the ideal of beauty among the Ivaka, to the point that the much thinner Ika is treated poorly for being deemed ugly. Bi the Way , Situational Sexuality: After watching Naoh and Ika copulate face-to-face for the first time, Amouker approaches Gaw for sex, but is rebuffed.
All the Ivaka wear full body paint made of clay and charcoal. Naoh is painted in this way when he is initiated into the tribe. The film begins and ends with the same long-shot pan to the fire. Clash of Evolutionary Levels: There's basically a four-way evolutionary battle royale going on between the four primitive human tribes. Writer Anthony Burgess created the prehistoric languages for the film. He explains his methods here.
At the beginning of the film, an Ulam male is vigorously copulating with one of the females when the Wagabu launch their attack. Needless to say, it kind of kills the mood. Ulam "courtship" consists of males grabbing random females and mounting them with little to no verbal communication or negotiation. This causes some problems when Ulam males come into contact with an Ivaka Homo sapiens female. The Ulam don't understand laughter.
When Ivaka laughs for the first time, they become unsettled. Later, they seem to have adopted the concept and bring it back home with them. Do You Want to Copulate? Sex in the paleolithic is extremely open and casual. In one scene a guy gets hit on the head. Ika laughs hysterically for over a minute; the others glare at her.
This is because the concept of laughter is unknown to them. Later, however, they have a healthy dose of it. Earn Your Happy Ending: The group returns with fire Naoh tries to make fire with sticks, to no avail. There is a lot of straightforward sex and nudity in this film, but most of it isn't very sexy. Most of the people aren't very pretty and the sex is rough and animalistic.
When Naoh finally returns to his tribe with the fire, during the celebrations, one of the tribesmen trips and falls into the swamp, snuffing the flames. The Wagabu definitely fit this trope, being hairy and bestial, with intense physical strength. The film is quite bloody and gory in places, most notably the scene where a spear is thrust through a Wagabu's mouth and out through the back of his head. A Kzamm bites Naoh in the genitals, causing him severe pain. He is later healed by Ika. The Ivaka anatomically modern humans are initially the only people capable of understanding humour, starting their own fires, constructing free-standing shelters, and copulating face-to-face.
Science Marches On , and it is now thought that all, or most, Homo species shared these abilities to some degree even great apes like chimps and gorillas are known to understand humour and mate face-to-face.
Amoukar has this reaction when he learns that the leftover meat he's been chewing on is human. The Kzamm are a cannibalistic tribe of Neanderthals.
Truth in Television , as many anthropologists think that at least some Neanderthals practiced some form of cannibalism. Ika is easily the most innocent and gentle character in the film. She is also casually naked throughout most of it as is usual for her tribe and, like most hunter-gatherers, is not the least bit shy about sex.
A big factor in conflicts between human and proto-human tribes. The Kzamm smash their clubs on the ground when they approach the Ulam. Amouker boldly responds with his own demonstration. Ika's treatment of Naoh's wounded genitals seems to involve oral sex. An early example of the trope, though not as pronounced as it is today. There's noticeable jitter during the tribal battles, typically reserved for 1 vs 1 shots.
Also notable because these are not POV shots , which most pre jitter was limited to. Ika definitely fits the bill, being small, cute and highly vocal with a loud laugh something unknown to the Ulam. Gaw and Ika tamper with a Cave bear cub with the expected result. Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ika who teaches Naoh and the other Ulam males to laugh and love. A Marabou stork appears in one scene. Marabou storks are found only in Africa and are thus out of place in Pleistocene Europe.
The bird was probably chosen for it's bizarre "prehistoric" appearance. Ika, a Homo sapiens female and the most conventionally attractive person in the film who wears little more than body paint and a smile for most of her screen time. Ika along with the other Ivaka females is naked throughout most of the movie.
In particular, Rae Dawn Chong was cast as Ika because she was the most comfortable with nudity. She remained nude and covered in body paint between takes to stay in character as can be seen, briefly, in the behind the scenes documentary. The Ulam wear furs draped loosely over their bodies that often reveal breasts and buttocks. Most of the women in this film are not pretty to modern sensibilities.
Even the more conventionally attractive Ika doesn't fully conform to modern standards of beauty, being covered head to toe in clay and charcoal. Slightly more accurate than most examples.
The caption, as noted above, reads "80, years ago", but Annaud admits in the DVD commentary that it might just as well be ,, so Pelts of the Barbarian: The savage Kzamm are clothed in heavy furs. Given the culture of the setting, and the generally animalistic behaviour it's unclear to what extent consent is given, if at all, and some of the sex scenes definitely resemble rape.
Naoh falls victim to this on the way to the Ivaka settlement, as do Amouker and Gaw when they go looking for him. Rape, Pillage, and Burn: