|DVD Ao: The Last Hunter
Run time: 84 min
Genres: Adventure | History
Director: Jacques Malaterre
Writers: Michel Fessler, Philippe Isard
Stars: Agie, Helmi Dridi, Ilian Ivanov
When his clan, including his wife and baby girl Néa, are massacred, Ao, a desperate Neandertal man, decides to leave the North country where he has been living for the South where he was born. His aim is to join his twin brother, from whom he was separated when he was nine. On his long and adventurous way home, he meets Aki, a Homo Sapiens woman… Written by Guy Bellinger
|Plot Keywords: loss of family, attempted rape, giving birth, prehistoric times, caveman|
Release Date: 29 September 2010 (France)
Jacques Malaterre, a maker of TV fiction (mainly TV films and series episodes), discovered prehistory and more generally speaking – the history of man – when he was chosen to direct the highly successful documentary "L'odyssée de l'espèce" (2003). He was so captivated by the matter he was assigned to explore that he gradually became a specialist of the subject himself. With the help of famed paleoanthropologist Yves Coppens as a co-writer and scientific adviser he also directed "Homo Sapiens" (2005) and "Le sacre de l'homme" (2009). So it is hardly surprising to see him further explore his favorite subject in a new work, the difference this time being that he has chosen the big screen to express himself in preference to television.
"Ao, le dernier Neandertal", which illustrates the thesis (confirmed by recent discoveries based on DNA analysis) that some Neandertal and Homo Sapiens had offspring together) undoubtedly benefits from this change of scope, which does not mean that it is the best in Malaterre's four-installment saga. Very spectacular indeed, the film has epic qualities when it comes to Ao's struggle for survival in all weather conditions, aesthetic assets when it describes the beauty and cruelty of nature of wild life. And actor Simon Paul Sutton is very believable as Ao, the desperate creature who sees all the members of his clan die around him, managing to express his feelings mostly through looks, grunts and body language. Which is some kind of a feat. Last but not least is the creation of a consistent specific language (that the viewer does not understand with the exception of one or two words). Too bad then that Malaterre resorted to a commentary in modern language to explain exactly what happens. Jean-Jacques Annaud had been able to do without such an expedient in his amazing "Guerre du feu".
On the other hand, for all the modernity of its scientific approach, the film is nothing else but a boy meets girl story, complete with the usual clichés: boy and girl don't get on/ love is born/ and they live happily ever after. Worse, the female lead, Aruna Shields, is too pretty to be true. Luckily, her acting is good, which partly compensates for the initial mistake, but you need a good dose of suspension of disbelief to really come into this aspect of the story.
Despite this weak point, "Ao" remains worth watching. Even if a few details leave to be desired, you really feel you are living a long long time ago constantly asking yourself whether YOU could have survived in such a hostile environment. This is enough to justify the price of your movie ticket, I think.
The movie is about last of the Neanderthals, named Ao, who after loosing all his clan ventures back from Siberia to Southern Europe where he came from, to find his brother, Oa.
The film is set in pretty much realistic environment and the main guy is believable Neanderthal, though maybe little bit softer at heart, than we imagine Neanderthals would be.
We see realistic scene of his ugly Neanderthal wife giving birth to child. Realistic scene of Ao and his mate fighting bear and so on… So we prepare ourself to dig deeper into movie with documentaristic approach, we are going to see prehistoric life of humans and Neanderthals but after Ao's departure from Siberia and his first meeting with humans, the problems start.
Giving that the action scenes of the movie aren't all that impressive, the love theme is not so original, there is little drama or tension that can capture your attention, it would be smartest thing to continue the movie in only available way to make it stand-out and original – I mean, making it as realistic, as possible and while it started good in that direction, it failed miserably very soon.
Ao meets human girl who has the appearance of top-model, apparently shaves her legs and armpits and is just too damn sexy and unbelievable for all her surrounding people and nature.
From that moment we get cliché-driven, stupid love-escape story with predictable end. Good bye realism… good bye exploring of prehistoric life… good bye the most interesting part of the movie.
I understand that it's NOT documentary and director has all the right to soften the harsh prehistoric world, but it's just too much.
This could be worse if girl couldn't act. Fortunately she can, and does it pretty good actually, but alas, she can't save the movie.
This kind of cinematography could have success in only one case, but somewhere along the production director went the very wrong way.
Overall, mediocre film
We are in Europe, 30,000 years before the present. Ao (British actor Simon Sutton, under heavy makeup), is the last of the Neanderthals (he belong to the last surviving clan, and escaped from being massacred along them by a bunch of Homo Sapiens). He is now on the run, and in his flight, he takes as companion a beautiful Homo Sapiens girl named Aki (the beautiful Aruna Shields, a petite who appears in this film topless most of the time) who is fleeing with her baby for some unspecified reason. Against all odds, Ao and Aki would have some sort of interspecies romance (scientists have recently found that there was some interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens).
Any film that deals with prehistoric man (not that there many of them), is almost inevitably going to have some ridiculous scenes, and this is not exception. But this French movie (by renowned documentary filmmaker Jacques Malaterre) is able to hold our interest. The beautiful wintry locations where this was shot (in France and Bulgaria) certainly helps.
I actually quite enjoyed this movie even though, for the first ten minutes or so, I was hating it with a passion. So why the change of heart? Well, first off, the movie is without speech of any meaningful kind at all. The prehistoric people do have languages, but you can't understand any of it. It's not a big deal, since the scenes do a pretty good job of "showing, not telling" as they play out. The plot is fairly simple as well, so you are never really in much doubt what is going on.
But here's where the problems I experienced in the first ten minutes come in. Even though it is essentially speech-free, there is just the worst documentary-style narration going on at times. You're probably saying this isn't too bad. But trust me, you have to hear it to understand why I hated it so much.
The narrator reads his dialogue like he's just been informed his entire family has died in an automobile accident. Flat, uninterested and with all the liveliness of a cymbal-clapping, monkey toy that's had its batteries removed.
Without exception, its the worst delivered narration I've ever heard. It sucks you right out of the action and sets your nerves on edge. You want to scream at the screen for him to stop. To shut up. To let you enjoy the movie. But he never does.
Thankfully, the narration is heaviest near the start. It becomes sparser and more spaced out as the movie goes along and you even forget about it at times. Then, out of the blue, up it will pop to spoil your enjoyment for a few seconds.
Why they thought it would be a good idea I don't know. The story is easy enough to follow without it. They could have at least got someone who wasn't a secret fan of The Smiths to read it.
Despite the talk-over, the film is enjoyable, if predictable all the way through. The only unpredictable thing about it is guessing when Captain Monotone will pop-up to depress you with his stagnant narration!
SUMMARY: Might be worth watching with the sound turned down for the first few minutes. Worth watching, even with the dire and unnecessary exposition.