Quest For Fire (UK - BD RB)
Marcus travels back to a time of cavemen and forgets his zippo lighter
80,000 years ago, man's relationship with fire was that of wonder and when the sacred flame is stolen from the Wagabu tribe by another savage tribe, three are chosen (Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Nameer El-Kadi) to take on a quest to find fire and return it to the Wagabu.
Quest for Fire is a one of those rare films that goes for broke and delivers a story of the distant past, told in a way that tries to emulate the difficult period it's set in. Setting a film in the time of cave dwelling man is not an easy task to take on, but in 1981 director Jean-Jacques Annaud took hold of the idea and generated something quite unique.
Told with no understandable languages and no subtitles to back that up, Quest for Fire relies heavily on the human condition to tell its story. Frustration, fear, sadness and joy, everything is covered here, either via animalistic responses, facial or physical suggestion or at it's most emotional via glimpses of more human characteristics as man stood on the precipice of change.
Of course, this is by no means a documentary. There's a story to be told here and it's one of classic adventure, despite it's more honorable intentions towards realism. Visually Quest for Fire reminded me a lot of Willow and to stick to Lucasfilm productions, the two Ewok movies. Everything is all very natural looking, with nature playing a big part in the look of the film. There's plenty of good old fashioned practical effects, in-camera trickery and a great use of giving real locations a fantasy edge. Really, despite the historic feel, Quest for Fire could easily be mistaken for an 80s fantasy feature and there's a sense it influenced the films in the genre that followed it.
The cast, almost across the board deliver great performances. Subtle, intriguing and easy to connect to, even with minimal dialogue. Sure, there's the old cliche bewildered caveman look on faces but 'acting' is hidden quite well here general. Sometimes these sorts of things are hard to relate to but Jean-Jacques Annaud makes sure to give us characters to enjoy being around. Rae Dawn Chong is especially lost in her fantastic performance and really brings something new to the set up when she arrives in the film. On a side note and again on a Lucasfilm vibe, I felt Ron Perlman looked a hell of a lot like a wookie here. With a whole slew of new Star Wars projects ahead, the actor can rest assured that he will always have a back up plan if he needs one.
The image here isn't consistently sharp and grain levels vary from scene to scene but there's a real depth to some of the visuals here. Multi-layers of lit rock surfaces, dark wilderness or dancing fire create a warm glowing image in night scenes and thankfully, despite a lot of drab weather, the day scenes still hold up as well.
The Canadian and Scottish locations are either thick with trees or open and wild and they always look layered and full of colour, though not always ones that leap out of the screen as you'd expect from a modern film with the same sort of backdrop. Thicker fog banks bring thicker waves of grain and detail tends to get lost behind it without a strong light source.
When the blue skies and sunshine do brighten up the image, elements like costume and make up can really become full of detail. Foliage pops with green, the minimal amount of reflective surfaces like eyes or water also manage to twinkle more and the fire elements really do manage to feel quite unique to the other elements around them.
The score can sometimes feels like its struggling to escape the front speakers. Almost like it's reaching out into the rears but never always with the right amount of gusto. At peaks the score sounds balanced enough but there's a distinct hollowness to it at times that even a nice bit of bass doesn't always disguise.
Sound effects manage to play in the rears much better. Wildlife and general ambience live in the rears throughout and even though this is not a powerhouse of an audio track, it's one that uses all of its channels for pretty much the entire run time and to great effect a lot of the time.
The first commentary with Jean-Jacques Annaud is essentially little bursts of facts from the director. Casting, effects, performances, and even the challenge of getting the film made at all. It's all discussed by the likable director and the track adds a lot to how hard all of this must have been.
The second track with Ron Perlman, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael Gruskoff talks a lot about the story and even a little bit about what is and isn't theoretically historically accurate. Of course the costumes are covered as well as the performances but the trio really paint a good picture of the production and its challenges.
The interview with Jean-Jacques Annaud (33:06 SD) has the director talk of his career and how the power of an Oscar win for a previous film enabled him some leverage when it came to making Quest for Fire. He talks of the struggles of the film and really this is a nice mini version of same details he expands upon in the commentary track.
'The Making of Quest for Fire' (24:49 SD) seems to be an original making of from the 1981 release. It's a great documentary covering language and performance development, attention to historical detail and of course the make up work and costumes. I love this era of film documentaries and this one gave me a nostalgic buzz that made me want to revisit original documentaries of the 80s flicks I adore all over again.
The 'Video Gallery with Jean-Jacques Annaud Commentary' is fifteen sub sections covering the production. Photos from the pre-production to the finished film's promotion. The director is brutally honest about the early designs and shows deep admiration for the work done by his cast and crew as we cycle through the shots from the film's creation.
Quest For Fire is by no means a rush back to re-watch type of film but it shares the same sort of appeal that film's like One Million Years B.C manages to generate. Of course, Quest for Fire is going for realism, so sadly there's no fur bikini covered Raquel Welch's running around but there's something quite emotional in how important fire is depicted to early man here and that's very engaging.
The disc itself is heavy on the grain side, for those that dislike that sort of thing but has elements that show an obvious HD boost. The audio is one of those elements, even if it's not quite up to modern standards and the extras are a fine collection of additions to make this release well worth your time if you're after something a little bit different.
* Note: The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 5th August 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Wagabu, DTS 5.1 Wagabu
Extras: Commentaries, Making of, Interview, Photo Gallery With Commentary
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Cast: Everett McGill, Rae Dawn Chong, Ron Perlman, Nameer El-Kadi
Length: 100 minutes
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