Clan of the Cave Bear, The (1986): John Sayles’ Adaptation

Cinematographer Michael Chapman, who shot Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” directed this John Sayles adaptation of Jean M. Auel’s best-selling novel about Cro-Magnon women.

The tale begins in pre-history, when the last of the Neanderthal men were becoming extinct and the superior  race of Cro-Magnons were beginning to supersede them.

A tribe of wandering Neanderthals adopt a young girl named, Ayla (played as an adult by Daryl Hannah), who grows tall, lithe, and smart. The Neanderthals accept her into their tribe, and she begins to question the tribe’s male chauvinistic values.  Unable to understand why only men are given weapons, she learns how to use a slingshot. She then questions the tribe’s sexual politics. She learns to count and becomes the assistant to the local medicine expert.

The tribe utilizes Ayla’s knowledge for their own good while she continues to contest the tribe’s  expectations and demands of women.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Makeup: Michael G. Westmore and Michele Burke

Oscar Context:

The winners were Chris Wallas and Stephan Dupius for Cronenberg’s remake of “The Fly.”




Running time: 100 minutes.

Directed by Michael Chapman

DVD: November 9, 1999