Cave of Forgotten Dreams has a sense of magic and awe
A documentary by Werner Herzog. Rated G.
From the very beginning, Werner Herzog’s documentaries have been a search for the sacred, in the nonreligious, even nonspiritual, sense of the word. What he has always sought to find in the more distant corners of our world is that sense of magic and awe that prevailed everywhere in the days before the first shaman mutated into the first priest.
Thus, the chance to make a film inside the Chauvet Cave could not help but be seen by him as a blessing from beyond, even if it meant shooting in 3-D, a process that the director was not altogether sold on.
This unique cultural grotto, discovered in 1994, contains the world’s most ancient rock paintings, some of which are at least 32,000 years old. With the film crew obliged to wear special suits, walk across narrow metal walkways, use only battery-powered equipment and low-amp lights, and record every plunging horse and fighting rhino in an extremely tight six-day shooting schedule, the technical problems were certainly daunting. Fortunately for us, Herzog not only loves challenges but pretty much demands them. Clearly, he was the perfect guy for the job, and the 3-D results are magnificent.
To be sure, the director was obliged to use levelheaded scientists as talking heads in lieu of the “divine fools” he generally prefers, but he still manages to make all kinds of brilliant points about “irrational” mysteries. In some of the paintings, he sees the origins of motion-picture animation. In others, an early version of the Minotaur myth and the square root of every shape-shifting creature in our mythology.
No wonder the French ministry of culture threw so much money into this production. Art isn’t just inherently French, it seems, but inherently French Cro-Magnon as well.
Eat your heart out, Quest for Fire.
Watch the trailer for Cave of Forgotten Dreams.