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At a time in prehistory when Neanderthals shared the Earth with early Homo sapiens, a band of cave-dwellers adopt blond and blue-eyed Ayla, a child of the "Others". As Ayla matures into a young woman of spirit and courage (unlike other women of the clan), she must fight for survival against the jealous bigotry of Broud, who will one day be clan leader. Based on Jean M. Auel's popular book, there is minimal narration; subtitles translate the Neanderthal gestures and primitive spoken language. Written by
Out now on "budget" DVD, fun to watch after all these years.
The popularity of DVD has exploded the past couple of years like no new entertainment technology before. We are seeing more and more older films released on DVD for a pittance, like this one, "Clan of the Cave Bear", which I purchased for under $6US. There isn't much sound in this film, but the images, all shot in British Columbia, come through really well.
The setting in time is prehistoric, during the brief overlap of the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon humans. Ayla (Daryl Hannah), a very blonde Cro-Magnon, was orphaned as a small girl, wounded, and found by the dark-haired Cave Bear Clan of Neanderthals. Against the wishes of the leader, she is taken in and nursed back to health by the medicine woman. As she grows up we see that she is innately smarter than her adopted family, learns things quickly, begins to innovate. The Neanderthals are portrayed as if they had perhaps an IQ of 80, while Ayla certainly has an IQ of 120 to 140.
This causes difficulties for her, because the women are totally subserviant, and one of them showing smarts or initiative is punished. A woman who even touches a hunting weapon is sentenced to die. But when Ayla does to defend a tribesman, she is only exiled in the winter and, if she survives, allowed to come back. She does, but finally realizes her "spirit" is different, and leaves to look for her own kind. After she fights and defeats the young "alpha male", who earlier had raped her thus giving her a child.
Some critics scoff at the primative community portrayed here, but it in fact is very accurate. In the DVD commentary we learn that much of the design for this film came from watching a few crude videotapes that were actually made by the Cro-Magnons during that prehistoric period and were discovered, well-preserved, in far northern sub-freezing caves in the 1960s. Not surprisingly, they were in the Beta format.
The whole film is about acceptance of someone different and of change. This is a common theme in many many films over the years, and is closely related to the popular "Pleasantville" of 1998. What makes this one different and enjoyable is the setting in time, the depiction of community values of these prehistoric peoples. I rate it highly overall.
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