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Ötzi or Kelab as portrayed by Jürgen Vogel in Der Mann aus dem Eis (Iceman).

Ötzi the Iceman Becomes a Movie


Inspired by Ötzi’s fascinating story for survival, German filmmaker Felix Randau attempts to revive the life of the most famous natural mummy in history though a feature film. Der Mann aus dem Eis (Iceman), was shot in the unfriendly mountains of Bavaria, South Tyrol and Carinthia and premiered successfully a week ago in Germany.

Ötzi’s Story Becomes a Film

The film takes us to the Ötztal Alps, almost 5300 years ago according to IMDB. A Neolithic clan has settled near a creek and it is their leader Kelab's (Ötzi) responsibility to be the protector of the group's holy shrine Tineka. While Kelab is hunting, the settlement is attacked. The members of the tribe are brutally murdered, amongst them Kelab's wife and son. Only his newborn survives miraculously. Blinded by fury and hate, Kelab is now seeking revenge.

The pursuit of the murderers is shaping up to be quite an odyssey for Kelab. He fights for the infant's survival and against the forces of nature; a fatal error even turns Kelab from hunter to hunted. On top of all that, the loneliness causes Kelab to doubt his actions more and more. When Kelab finally faces the murderers of his clan, his greatest challenge will be not to become a victimizer himself.

Still of ‘Der Mann aus dem Eis’ (Iceman). (Port au Prince Pictures Youtube Screenshot )

Inspired by Ötzi’s almost mythical status and the vast information scientists have collected about him, German filmmaker Felix Randau attempts to depict the first unsolved murder case in the history of mankind. “The figure of Ötzi, with his mythical grandeur, allowed us to look into the past to see what it tells us about the present,” Randau said in an interview as The Guardian reports. “It raises the question as to whether humans have really changed at all and developed over 5,000 years,” he adds.

Film Receives Mixed Reviews

The main character named Kelab is played by Jürgen Vogel, one of Germany's best-known actors today. He speaks an early version of Rhaetic, a language of the pre-Roman and Roman era in the eastern Alps, for which no translation is given in the film. Several critics have complimented the film for its cinematography and its “spectacular locations and pure storytelling,” as a Screen Daily’s film critic mentions according to The Guardian. Furthermore, Der Spiegel magazine focused on the film’s cultural meaning as it managed to highlight the universal interest for Ötzi, “who is our bridge to the beginning of humanity and central to the search for the origins of our own species,” according to their review.

However, the scientific world has been more reserved with their reviews than film critics. Spektrum der Wissenschaft, a scientific magazine, suggests that the German director missed a great opportunity to commemorate “the cultural achievements that science has discovered”, such as how Ötzi made his bows and arrows, gathered his food and made his leather garments.

Naturalistic reconstruction of Ötzi ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) and Ötzi's axe. Credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

Naturalistic reconstruction of Ötzi ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) and Ötzi's axe. Credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

South Tyrol Archaeological Museum May be the Biggest Winner

Despite the mixed reviews and the criticism the film has received from various scientists, there’s a certain winner from the release of the film according to The Guardian and that’s South Tyrol Archaeological Museum. The famous museum that has been visited by nearly five million people so far, is now experiencing a new influx of tourists following the release of the film, according to Angelika Fleckinger, director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. “People are fascinated by the man from the ice – they cannot get enough of him,” she said via The Guardian. Additionally, Souvenir shops in Bolzano, Italy, have reportedly been stocking up on new Ötzi memorabilia, including Ötzi mugs, T-shirts, key-rings and iceman mummy jelly babies.

Ötzi’s Mummy in Critical Condition?

Experts, however, suggest that all the euphoria and profit Ötzi has generated for the local populations, comes with a very high cost.  According to the people who closely supervise the amount of moisture in his body, Ötzi is in serious danger of disintegrating because of the overexposure to both the public and scientists. As The Guardian reports, Ötzi only weighs around 13kg (28 lbs) these days and he’s gradually losing almost two grams per day. They warn that he may have to be removed from public display and pack him into ice once again to preserve him.

Reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman by Kennis (c) South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman by Kennis (c) South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Every sixty days his body is sprayed by forensic scientist Oliver Peschel with a fine layer of water and cooled to form a thin ice layer which covers the entire body, including every fold in the skin. But the gradual weight loss makes scientists worry. “If we’re not extremely careful, Ötzi will go bad on us,” Peschel said as The Guardian reports. On the other hand, Albert Zink, head of Bolzano’s institute for mummy research, suggests that anthropologists need to carry out far more research on Ötzi and also keep him accessible to the public. “We are far from being finished with him,” he said in a statement that divides many scientists as there are those who insist that Ötzi should be preserved better before it’s too late.

Ultimately, The Guardian reports that Der Mann aus dem Eis (Iceman) is a collaboration between three countries – Germany, Italy and Austria – and parts of the movie were filmed in the rocky and cold mountains of Bavaria, South Tyrol and Carinthia.

Top image: Ötzi or Kelab as portrayed by Jürgen Vogel in Der Mann aus dem Eis (Iceman). (Port au Prince Pictures Youtube Screenshot)

By Theodoros Karasavvas



Take him back to his death site and bury him respectfully. Then create an Ötzi day of paying repects to your ancestor. Otherwise leave him alone already, I am tired of the abuse. 


Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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