Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) dir. Werner Herzog
By Alan Bacchus
I can’t believe I didn’t know this… in the opening moments Werner Herzog’s delightfully monotone German voice describes to us the discovery of one of the most influential archaeology sites of our time - a cave in France containing pristine, undisturbed cave paintings from 32,000 years ago (that’s THREE zeroes), which makes is the oldest recorded drawings/artwork of man.
Herzog gets us into the caves and shows us in 3-D these phenomenal works of art. I say works for art, because the technique made by these cro magnon men and women are astounding. First of all, the journey into the caves is a story unto itself. After moving through a dead bolted steel door, with small mobile cameras and minimal crew Herzog travels down a sharp cliff and then along a 3 foot wide steel walkway in order not to disturb the crystallized foundation of the cave. The whole cave is a work of art, the stalactites, the bones and skulls of extinct animals, including bears, tigers, and other wholly creatures.
On the walls are a series of intricately painting mosaics of animals using the contours of the caves walls to emphasize movement. As usual Herzog using his easy-going cinematic style he’s able to make even the most dry perfunctory information interesting and important. But Herzog has never been one to settle just for the information, it’s fun watching the scientists and archaeologists who have spent as many as 20 years mapping the caves and scientifically study the drawings be asked about what’s in the soul of the artists, or whether they dream of the painting.
What Herzog really wants to project to his audience is for us to look beyond the art and into the minds of the artists, to imagine their dreams, the spiritual aspect which separates man from animal and which connects us across these ages.
The 3-D is hit and miss. The low rent hand held camera create a nauseating swooshing effect, which loses all of it’s 3-D depth. But when Herzog is able to put his camera on some sticks we can really enjoy the stereoscopic space. Unfortunately within the caves, there’s not enough light to create definition and perspective as such, it’s not the best showcase of the medium.
The film though is another of Herzog’s phenomenal string of successes, doc or drama.