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Movies to See Before the World Ends: Quest For Fire

By  · Published on March 2nd, 2012

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained.

The Film: Quest For Fire (1981)

The Plot: 80,000 years ago in the time of the neanderthal one of the most precious commodities was fire. It served to cook food, keep warm, and ownership of fire by a tribe of human ancestors was a sign of power – because at that time it was not understood as to how it could be manufactured. When one such tribe gets brutally attacked by another group they lose their flame in the aftermath. Three of the group’s males (Nicholas Kadi, Everett McGill, and Ron Perlman in his first film role) break from the tribe and trek the land in search of another flame, and on their journey encounter groups of similar beings; some of which are as brutal as the creatures that attacked them earlier, and others more ‘strange’ to their current level of understanding.

The Review: Quest For Fire one could consider to be the first of a trilogy of adventure pictures from Jean Jacques Annaud whose primary protagonists are animals; real animals, of the non-speaking non-animated variety. This picture in contrast to The Bear and Two Brothers though is a reversal of complication of physical performance in that it required the believable dumbing-down of human actors to tell a story as if they were animals and the results are both compelling and, oddly, insightful.

Much of this is probably testament to the source novel the picture was adapted from, but there is certainly something to be said about bringing a story to life and making it easy to follow where the communication level between the subjects is minimal. The characters make noises and gestures, but as a viewer it’s difficult to know whether the characters themselves even understand each other some of the time. It’s a strange concept to see that the tribesman are capable of devising schemes of attacking and hunting by the use of deception and decoys, yet trivial responses such as laughter and humor are foreign.

However, the fascinating element to Quest For Fire, outside of the actors giving believably ape-like performances and articulating nothing, is how the filmmaker is able to make correlative commentary on modern society and modern man through a picture that relies solely on the physicality of its actors to play beings that are 80,000 years our intellectual inferiors. It’s a very “the more things change the more they stay the same” perception of evolution. We’ve certainly learned a lot, but in terms of what it is that we value, why we value it and how we treat other members of our species that get in our way of attaining it we can simply realize more by seeing that we really haven’t learned anything. Depending on a viewers personal outlook the film can simply be a story of our capabilities and how we can learn to better ourselves by exposure and venturing into untraveled territory; but it can also be metaphorically representative of how knowledge in the hands of an immoral being can, and usually does, have destructive consequences depending on what you think happens to the tribe after the credits role. The answer to that can be found on any of your favorite news programs.

But why spend 100 minutes watching this film when you only have 423,357 minutes left alive?

Depending on your belief system it’s always good to know where you’re headed by understanding where we came from. Whether you believe in the theory of evolution or not the fact is creatures akin to us did exist and whether you find them to be of our own ancestry or not is irrelevant. The fact is we are not as dissimilar from the ape species as one might think when you consider our animalistic tendencies on possession and gender superiority; and when knowledge is lost we have to start over and chances are when we do that we won’t know much more than that we need to put something in our mouths in order to stay alive. We certainly won’t know how to make fire, let alone how to cook something on it, unless you watch Quest For Fire. Watch, learn, and survive and maybe 80,000 years afterward we will still be attempting overcome the same root behavioral problems. But, we’ll have fire.

Come on Baby, Light my Fire and Read Apocalypse Soon Titles By It

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