Quest for Fire (1981) Poster

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8/10
Unique prehistoric survival adventure.
jckruize22 April 2002
Ignore the idiotic negative comments of the naysayers. This is a great film. It boldly creates a world unlike any we've seen before, with dedicated actors going well beyond the call of duty in portraying a life and death struggle for survival under the most harrowing conditions imaginable.

Featuring Claude Agostini's splendid wide-screen cinematography of remote, rainswept landscapes and a rich score by Phillipe Sarde, this movie will take you on a compelling journey that, if nothing else, will clarify the routine creature comforts of our civilized world in a manner more direct than anything you might have previously experienced in a theater.

Jean-Jacques Annaud and collaborators tell their tale with dramatic simplicity and virtually no dialogue, but the points made are powerful. Humanity survives, and will prevail despite our weaknesses and faults. Overall, a remarkable, life-affirming work.
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10/10
"...and Prometheus said, 'Let me give you fire,' and humanity saw that it was good..."
Tressa Breen26 April 2005
A peaceful tribe of prehistoric humans, unable to create fire, loose their only source of flame due to another tribe's attack. Three of the tribe leave their home to search for a new source of fire to bring back to their people before the cold climate can take its toll. Their journey brings them not only into contact with other tribes of prehistoric humans at different stages of evolution but also advances their own humanity, as well as teaching them to be "prometheuses" in their own right.

An absolutely fascinating film. Those who are partial to history and anthropology will especially enjoy this. An honest, un-PC look at the origins of the species and the development of humanity through loss, tragedy, hardship, hostile elements and the beginnings of laughter, morality, community service, leadership, friendship and of course, love. A wondrous feat of body language performances as there is no truly discernible language/dialogue spoken. This is a well done, well made film all around.

For those into scenery gazing the beauty of the locations (Canada, Iceland, Kenya, Scotland) alone are worth a rental fee.

Ron Perlman is one of the three male leads/would be prometheuses. Watch the body language! Someone did research! A difficult and impressive (first movie) performance.

Definitely worth a buy (the DVD has two commentaries, one with the director Jean-Jacques Annaud, one with producer Michael Gruskoff, Rae Dawn Chong and Ron Perlman).
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10/10
A journey through the essence of the human spirit.
Gustav-1115 June 1999
Jean Jacques Annaud's "Quest for Fire" caught me by surprise. I have always been enthralled by movies that take place in prehistoric times, but I never expected this movie to be filmed with such consistency. This film captures an innocent adventure, in which three men (Naoh, Amoukar,& Gaw) are selected by the tribe to recapture their snuffed out fire. The journey brings them into many trials of existence, which we modern beings very seldom come in contact with. At points, there scenes that capture a sense of humor that is so basic to our modern way of thinking, but for these characters they are just discovering such things like the concept of laugher. At other points of the film, these brave men encounter situations that show the true brutal world of the survival of the fittest. The manner in which these characters search for fire gives the viewer a true love for the characters courage and heroic nature. For if they do not succeed, it is surely the end of their tribe and for them. The fire holds the key to survival with its warmth, cooking function, and most of all its ability to ward off stalking predators. Fire is power for beings at this point in time. Just as knowledge is for modern human beings.

This film succeeds in it's proportions,direction, settings, music, great special effects,and acting. The acting especially is something to take notice of, since there is no recognizable language spoken. The preparation for such a role as this these is amazing in its own right. "Quest for Fire" will lead you into the reality of what once was and capture the essence of the human spirit.
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10/10
Remarkable
August199123 February 2004
I recall when this film was released. If memory serves, the hype concerned the efforts to turn an elephant into a mastodon using make-up and an actress running around nude. In other words, the film in my mind fell into the 'One Million Year BC' category and I ignored it.

Later, I learned who Annaud was and admired 'The Name of the Rose' for its direction, its translation of a difficult book and its effort at realism. Finally, I rented 'Quest for Fire' on DVD and saw it on the big home screen. (In fact, I watched it several months ago and I'm commenting now because it remains in my mind.)

Experts can quibble about the realism. But for me, this film makes an intelligent and credible effort to present a world of 80,000 years ago. In this, it raises good questions about who we are as a species. Human genetic code has not changed in that time and any one of the beings portrayed would be perfectly capable of using a computer as I'm doing now. Nonetheless, they lived in a world without numbers, without prices, without trade, without written language and without means to create fire. Everyone alive today had an ancestor who survived those conditions. 'Quest for Fire' is a must-see for anyone curious about the human condition.
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9/10
Very underrated.. one of my top 20 Favorites.
jake-8731 January 1999
Many of my friends laugh at me when I mention this movie. I don't know what makes so many of them hate it so.. Perhaps the lack of understandable dialogue? Too much like thinking to understand what is going on? Whatever it is, I am one of the few I know who feel this is a very underrated movie.. I know it is not accurate from a scientific perspective... The time line is all messed up.. but so what? I sat there in the theater just thinking.. "suppose live in our distant past WAS something like this movie. Fire=Life=Fire. Along comes a superior tribe and I realize that I could summon the flames at MY WILL. How powerful I would feel.. Almost G-d like! The photography is lush and there is a tinge of humor when the backward tribe learns to laugh. I enjoyed the story and the acting... everything. Rent it! See it twice if you must. Just maybe... we ARE looking back at ourselves.
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8/10
The best cavemen movie ever!
elcopy7 June 1999
This is an extremely overlooked film many people should learn about. First, it tells you a very complex story without a single line of dialog successfully.

Second, the story is universal: Every civilization on earth can pick up this film and understand it, because it goes to the most basic, primitive issues of a species (mainly, survival). Third, it makes the beginning of man interesting. Fourth, it reminds us we were once as savage as any other animal on earth.

Fifth, it's like no other movie you've seen before. That one I can guarantee you.
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10/10
Anthropoids galore!
Don Muvo12 January 1999
One of the elements of this film I liked the most was the realistic depiction of the diversity of anthropoid types that existed in those times. This was executed beautifully and skillfully in the depiction of several diverse tribal groups, explaining the well deserved Oscar for makeup.

When Naoh finds the love of his life in one of these other tribes, it is because there is an element of compatibility both between the cultures and the two individuals supporting the attraction they share. Some of the other groups depicted don't do as well in the tribal intercourse and cultural sharing department, as they tend to eat the individuals from other tribes that they encounter.

Another elements of realism that scores big with me was that there are attacks by wild animals as well as by anthropoids. I also liked the language used by the main tribe, there was a suggestion that the language was evolving right before us as the travelers, having been sent on a quest for fire, returned with quite a bit more to talk about.

This is one of my favorite movies, possibly the most favorite.
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8/10
They say there's no accounting for taste...
nescient12 July 2004
I saw this film (on VHS rental) so long ago I might have been in it. My (ex) wife & friends thought it was stupid - "What's going on? Nobody's saying anything". I found it mesmerising and have been looking for it ever since (car boot sales, Ebay etc).

OK, if you've two adjacent brain cells, you'll spot the anachronisms and the cheap effects, but credit where it's due for originality and balls - to the director and the backers.

If you're sick of hype and tripe, find it. If you're hooked intravenously to Hollywood pap (as 99.999% of the world's population seem to be) then give it a miss.

Just my 2p.
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9/10
The best cave man movie ever!
Gil Polanco18 February 2005
Okay, there haven't been many cave man flicks and they were all bad except for Quest For Fire. Yes, the mammoths looked a bit like Mr. Snuffolopogus and some of the makeup jobs could've been done better but it's still a great movie.

The story line was captivating and the characters were well-developed. Even though there were no subtitles, I could still understand everything that was being said because of the way the movie was put together.

This flick has it all: Action, adventure, comedy, and romance. I loved it.
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9/10
I forgot what a great film this is
Andy Hall19 May 2003
I saw this film on the big screen when I was a pre-teen. I recently saw it again and was reminded what a great movie this is.

You don't need to know the languages to understand what is going on. (The characters from different tribes don't know the other languages and they often act out what they need.) This is a movie about the primal fight to survive and how even though they are forced to travel to find a new fire, their experiences expand their horizons in ways they could never have anticipated. If their own fire hadn't gone out they would never have met the cannibals or the clay people, who ultimately hold the key to their survival.

At its core, this is a movie about how although we may look different and have different customs we are all human and what we can learn from each other is irreplaceable.
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10/10
I never tire of watching this movie
conf30 December 1999
Unlike most movies which are so driven by dialog and where the story is spoon-fed to the audience, Quest for Fire leaves so much to the interpretation of the viewers. The acting is superb (imaging telling a story of this depth through acting alone without the aid of spoken word), the makeup is believable, and the score all work together to tell this entertaining and informative story.

In many instances, it's not just the viewers who are left with having to figure out what is happening in a particular scene, the characters in the movie are often met with peoples and situations which are just as alien to them as they are to us.

Sure there are no chiseled dimpled leading actors or stunning buxom leading actresses, but even that, I found so refreshing. There also are no fancy explosions or computer generated special effects but that's what makes it so realistic.

You can watch it for its educational value, you can watch it for its humor, you can even watch it for its "action" (violence) .. but for whatever reason, do watch it at least once. When you do, watch it with an open mind and be prepared to use your imagination.
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In Search Of The Past
Lechuguilla30 January 2007
Raw and at times brutal, this story follows three primitive warriors who make a cross-country journey in search of that most precious of natural elements ... fire. In prehistoric times, having fire meant survival from the cold and protection from predators.

In this film, facial gestures, hand movements, general body language and mannerisms of the characters are all consistent with conclusions about early man, as a result of thorough anthropological research. In lieu of modern language the film's dialogue consists of some 350 invented words and sounds, also based on research. In addition, an important part of the film is attention to detail in costumes and makeup, for which the film won several awards. All of these technical cinematic elements combine to create a reasonably accurate visual and audio impression of mankind as it existed some 80,000 years ago.

As you would expect, the film is shot entirely in rugged, remote locations, resulting in landscapes that are stunningly beautiful. Background music is generally low-key and ethereal, like what you might hear in a sci-fi film. There's lots of flute sounds, which reinforce the simplicity of the time period.

For all its technical achievements, this film's main weakness may be the screenplay. When you take away the artifacts of modern life, you're very limited in the kind of story you can tell. And that clearly is the case here, with a plot that drones on with a monotony and repetition that can be tedious, and at times difficult for some viewers.

Although the story's entertainment value may be marginal, "Quest For Fire", with its low tech cinematic style, is interesting not only for its technical elements but also for its over arching theme of modern human's continuity with prehistoric man, based on the element of fire.
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10/10
This film stands up strongly after 25 years
sraymond710 December 2006
What I love about this film is the very plausible portrayal of the development of human traits in prehistoric man. The story centers around a tribe that has not yet learned to start a fire. They have to steal fire from other tribes, or find it in nature. So much of their efforts are centered on keeping a fire constantly nurtured, and if their fire goes out, the entire tribe suffers the elements. However, this is not a simple caveman flick. The filmmakers portray the development of human attributes such as humor and laughing, connection between males and females beyond the pure sexual, language development, story telling, cross-pollination of ideas between tribes of different levels of advancement, and at the end, the awakening of a sense of the transcendent. I find the film to be a compelling drama even after 25 years, and it does not seem at all dated. If you have even the slightest interest in early man, this film is a must-see.
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9/10
refreshing
sietch_tabr13 March 2004
I really like the many unique aspects of this movie. The idea of a watching a whole movie without dialog or subtitles may seem daunting to some, but i found it refreshing. I never had a problem understanding what the emotions or thoughts of the actors was. I found the score particularly well-suited. I enjoyed the saber-tooth tiger scene and the movie's approach to sex had a refreshing approach. This is one Ron Perlman's first movies and i found him the most watchable of the characters. The set location were well scouted and provided a vivid portrayal of early man's battle for life in his environment. I actually first saw this movie in the theater but its entertaining drama has enabled me to watch on many subsequent occasions
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7/10
However accurate or not it is: the best prehistoric men movie
Quebec_Dragon8 June 2009
It's probably the best and most accurate prehistoric men movie ever made as I write this (barring any PBS or Discovery channel documentaries). As accurate as anything prehistoric can be since anthropologists are probably even worse than historians about agreeing on theories. Whatever is the truth, it felt believable for that period. I thought at first it might devolve into cheap cavemen antics and the "costumes" for the second tribe seen seemed really lame but the movie grew a lot on me. It's actually a movie about the transition from ape to man condensed into a relatively short time for one tribe. It's actually more philosophical and emotional than one might initially think. What makes us humans instead of animals? Everything was filmed on outside locations with real animals (sometimes modified to look prehistoric) and it shows in the scope and authenticity. It felt strangely grim, uncomfortable and disorienting to me, which when I think about it, is probably how those tribesmen going on the quest must have felt.

They even had a famous linguist/author, Anthony Burgess, invent a language for the ape men to communicate. There aren't even any subtitles. It was made so anyone in the world can see this and understand which is a feat in itself. The beautiful musical score certainly helped counteract the lack of intelligible words by conveying the drama of the times. The performances were very good and convincing especially the one by Rae Dawn Chong (strange female covered in gray "makeup") who had the guts to be mostly naked throughout the film. Look also for Ron Perlman in his first role. From the commentaries, the actors really suffered a lot during shooting for the sake of authenticity (such as walking barefoot all the time). The story was simple but well told and meaningful. It felt a bit long at times for me so be sure you're up for it before starting your journey.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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The two best scenes in the movie
jmichalec13 February 2004
Much has been said about the movie and all I want to add is what I think are the two best scenes in the movie. The first is when the clay covered tribe member took Naoh into the cave and showed him how to make fire by friction. The look on Naoh's face could not express more wonder if he had pulled a buffalo out of his ear. The second scene was after they returned to their own tribe and tried to narrate to the rest of their tribe the things that they had seen along the way, seemingly inventing language as they went.
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10/10
A true and faithful film
Binzer9 January 2001
Rarely do we see an earnest attempt at truth in film today. And when such profound truth is combined with engrossing entertainment, it is something special.

Quest for Fire embodies such an effort. No compromises were made, such as cave men speaking English or the presence of dinosaurs. Yet this is an extremely entertaining film to watch. Emotionally exciting, intellectually interesting, and downright sexy, this film covers the gamut.

Where films like Platoon communicate to the viewer some honest sense of the Vietnam war, and war in general, Quest for Fire communicates a convincing sense of what prehistoric life may have really been like. It's all there, from brutal, lethal fights for survival, to exploration of social and technological limits of the age, to raw, shtanky, campfire sex with a fresh and nubile female tribe girl.

This goes up there with Platoon and Shakes the Clown as one of my favorites of all time!
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9/10
Convincing!
Evolvist28 July 2002
What keeps this movie from being a perfect "10" in my book? The unrealistic looking tribes that our "heroes" must go against. They look a bit silly, but otherwise, I think the movie is perfect. It really is. Please, please, please, let's see this re-mastered on DVD soon! One of my all time faves. It really looks like we are seeing through a window of time 80,000 years ago, in all its beauty and ugliness. "9.5"
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Absolutely unforgettable
Paulo R. C. Barros27 June 2004
"Quest for Fire" (1981 - 100 minutes), under Jean-Jacques Annaud direction and written by Gérard Brach, was based on the book of J. H. Rosny. The movie develops a travel in time showing one of the biggest conquest of human kind: the domain of fire. It's a 80 thousand years ago beautiful drama. The Ulan tribe lives nearby a natural source of fire. When the fire went out, three members of the tribe have to search for a new flame. After several days of walking and having to face many dangerous situations like wild animals, down temperatures and even cannibal tribes, they found the Ivakas, a more evolved human group that had already discovered how to "make" fire. With locations in Kenya, Scotland, Island and Canada, the movie was based on scientific knowledge, showing convincing habitats and characters. The preparation work of the actors body language was done by the Anthropologist Desmond Morris and Anthony Burgess took care of the "talking" of these human ancestors. Almost an Anthropology documentary, this excellent movie shows at the end a scene that suggests the "discovery of love" between male and female. Absolutely unforgettable.
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8/10
Not For Everyone
Marvin Cohn10 April 2000
If you do not have an insight into human nature or if you only have the mentality of a fourth grader, this movie is not for you; but if you have sensibility and introspect, then revel in it with this underrated masterpiece. Human nature has not changed since the beginning of man's existence....only gadgets have been added. "Quest For Fire" beats anything that has ever been produced in a "caveman" movie....and it doesn't matter what language you understand....and it doesn't matter what culture you are from....the themes are archetypic....and you won't even have to worry about subtitles.
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10/10
Stunning, Creative Cinema!
picassobob20033 January 2008
I watched this movie for the first time and was blown away by how good it was, visually beautiful and very realistic. Okay maybe they didn't have pots then, that's called artistic license. Picasso's women models didn't have a nose on the side of their face but that's how he he saw them. The relationship in the tribes and their interaction between other tribes was very insightfull and realistic.How they did those Sabre tooth Tigers in 1983 without computer graphics is beyond me.The importance of fire at that time was life and death I would imagine so that makes this story all the more believable. The landscapes are just stunning and don't look like some painted backdrop or CGI effect but very organic and fit the time period as well as can be done. This is a movie I will buy on DVD and treasure in my Movie Library.
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10/10
Couldn't stop watching it
pmstone2 December 2007
I wish the movie industry could make more movies as inspired and creative as this one. It's a tribute its creators that a movie without any spoken dialogue (understandable anyway) can say so much. Everett McGill is terrific as the leader of the trio. From the start you can tell he's a touch brighter than the other's of his tribe. And those piercing eyes. Then there's Ron Perlman. He's increbible. Big and not too bright, but intensely loyal and definitely the guy you want with you in a fight. They are all masterful at the use of body language and facial expressions which speak volumes without uttering a word. How many movies have I watched where the actors did speak, and I ended up wishing they hadn't. This is true acting at its best.
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9/10
Great film, highly underestimated. More accurate than...
fonteijn2 February 2001
Great film, highly underestimated. More accurate than a lot of people think. The different levels of development of the different tribes is a sharp observation. The characters and adventures are truly archetypical!
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10/10
Beautiful
ruthie-67 January 1999
This movie is very splendid. Not only was there a wonderful cast and great acting, the scenery was very beautiful. I was enthralled in the fact that there were no spoken words identifiable by any common language today. I definitely prefer it over any "half-naked cave woman running around in leopard-skin bikini" caveman movie out there. I would recommend it to fans of all movie genres, because it combines all of the aspects of great movies -- comedy, action, suspense, romance -- into a CAVEMAN movie. And it's pretty interesting to see how they do that.
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10/10
Suspend your disbelief
jshaffer-12 July 2004
This is one of the few movies that have allowed me to suspend my disbelief. It's as real as something that far back in the ages can ever be. This is no laughing matter; these people are desperate for fire. As their search goes along, we see all the perils of how and when they lived. I believed this story, and I have watched it numerous times now without having that belief shaken. It is a great relief not to have to watch explosions by the dozen, and people flying through the air in contravention of all rules of physics. There were no cardboard sets, no plastic imitations of objects, none of the things that make it impossible for me to believe in a movie. These people are real, their problems are real, then and now. We may not have to go hunt for fire anymore, but think about this movie next time you are caught in a traffic jam.
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