Guerre du feu, La (1981), or by its USA title, Quest For Fire, is a simple story.
A group of cavemen (and women) barely survive, and what keeps them going is their fire, which they guard with their lives and tend constantly. They keep it going because it gives them warmth and life.
They know if their fire goes out, they’re in trouble.
A group of ape-creatures attack our cave folks, attempting to steal their fire (and succeed) forcing the cave people to run for it (BTW, I’m not being dismissive, they actually live in caves) and during their flight, the flame they’ve carefully guarded falls into water.
Cold, wet, and close to death, one caveman vows (in his language, no subtitles) to venture out into the world and bring back fire. That’s the quest.
Two other cavemen join him (one being Ron Perlman, making his film debut) and they have great adventures on their way, meet other cultures (and Rae Dawn Chong, nude) and come close to death, but they bring back not only fire, but knowledge of making fire, humor and possibly much, much more.
It’s all done with images and action, no dialogue (and least no dialogue we can understand) but with much nuance and clarity, it’s an awesome film.
Some fantastic imagery in this film, both the brutal and the beautiful:
And add to that, it feels so real, when they meet a Wooly Mammoth, it’s a real mammoth, not some computer cartoon, same with the saber-toothed tigers.
And they look and act like people of their time, no makeup, no hair-style, it’s ugly and real and violent and all too fascinating because of it.
I think, and this is the verbal playwright saying this, I think and believe anyone interested in film and story needs to watch this film numerous times, for it manages to communicate a lot without words, only with action and expression. This is one of the truly amazing stories ever done without dialogue.
The scene where our Hero (Everett McGill) learns the difference between primitive intercourse and civilized intercourse is worth the price of admission itself. And where they learn laughter, the best.
So don’t wait or hesitate… rent Quest For Fire.