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In a forgotten past, Neanderthal man, Ao, suffers a tragedy when his family are killed. With nothing to hold him Ao sets off south in search of his estranged brother. As he passes through central Europe, he encounters Homo sapien tribes who reject him for his beast like visage and the Hyena-Men who want to wipe out the Neanderthals. Ao also finds love with Aki, the only Homo sapien who does not reject him...
Ao: The Last Hunter (2010 - 1 hr, 20 min, 30 sec) is a prehistoric survival drama directed by Jacques Malaterre and based on Marc Klapczynski’s book Ao, l'homme ancient.
The film's language is supposedly Neanderthal, with an English narrator. The speech, and Ao’s, thoughts are narrated for those of us who don’t speak the language. I’m not really sure who does the narration or why they just didn’t use subtitles because, to put it delicately, the narration is bloody awful and completely spoils what would otherwise be a pretty good film. The guy sounds like he is reading his lines, whilst fighting bouts of incredible boredom. And that lack of empathy with the character, and what he is experiencing, really comes across. There is barely any effort to put some emotion in the narration.
This is a real shame as the cast do a fine job of giving their character's emotion, even though they are essentially speaking nonsense and reduced to facial expressions and grunts. The direction is fluid and the director has a good eye for the epic, making the film a visual pleasure.
Simon Paul Sutton (Ao) plays his character as a creature at one with his environment; there is nobility in his portrayal. Aruna Shields (Aki) also does a good job, even if her performance is also ruined by a disinterested narration.
The disc that was sent was a screener so there were no menus or extras. It's difficult to say what the finished product will look like, hopefully not letterboxed with a time signature. Joking aside, it makes it a problem to comment on the audio or visual aspects of the disc. The screener only had a stereo audio track which was unfortunately very clear, failing to obscure any of the narration. The picture was clean but displayed a lot of compression, though I suspect this is only on the screener.
This is really a simple boy meets girl tale, which stands alongside modern anthropological studies that the Neanderthals got one last jolly with Homo sapiens before they died out, I suppose there had to be some compensation for extinction. The film is bookended with dire warning that we too, as a race, could just as easily die out, mind you if there is a promise of one last jolly, it won’t be all that bad.