Cave of Forgotten Dreams

PhotobucketWerner Herzog, eccentric legend of the New German Cinema, directs and narrates this documentary about the Chauvet Caves in France. Discovered in 1994 they are home to the oldest drawings in the world today, dating back over 30,000 years ago. In an effort to preserve the archeological find, the general public are not allowed to enter. The French government has even vigilantly restricted access within the caverns. This then is a rare examination of this historical treasure. The unprecedented look is the film’s biggest asset.

The documentary has sort of a two faced duality to it. When Herzog is filming inside the caves and allows the natural and manmade wonders to speak for themselves, the presentation is otherworldly and magical. The prehistoric drawings are astonishingly well preserved and surprisingly have a lot of artistic style. The appropriate music underscores their beauty. But unfortunately we’re also subjected to talking head interviews of various paleontologists, archaeologists and art experts. By the time a perfume sniffer is imposed on us, the tedium is mind-numbing.

The feature was shot in 3-D using special cameras custom built for the production. It’s difficult to imagine seeing these artifacts any other way. They capture the tactile feel of the cave, giving life to the glittering wonder from within. I’m convinced that this is the future of 3-D filmmaking. Once its novelty use in fiction has worn off, the necessity of 3-D in documentaries will live on. The process is absolutely essential to appreciating the cave’s allure. There is at least 30 minutes of extraordinary footage that beats any informational video seen at your city’s Natural History Museum.  Note: the film is 90 minutes long

8 Responses to “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

  1. I feel lucky to be one of the few to see this magnificent cave. The drawings are so well made, I was impressed. 30,000 years, can’t even imagine that.


  2. I really want to see this. I bet the caves look amazing in 3D.


  3. After reading your review, I feel I really must see this documentary! I have seen enough documentaries with talking heads to know what you are talking about when you say they are imposed on the viewer. But you make it sound as though seeing 30 minutes of actual footage of the paintings in
    3-D worthwhile. And since the actual caves are not open to the general public, this documentary is the only way I will be able to view these 30,000 year old drawings. I”ll keep my eyes peeled for this film. Thanks.


  4. magnolia12883 Says:

    Despite my obstructed view from the balcony at Cinema 21, this was a surprisingly interesting peek into a never-before-seen section of the world via the unique lens of Herzog 🙂


  5. I love, love, love, and….LOVE Herzog. I haven’t seen this yet, so I’ll remedy that as soon as possible. I guess it won’t be in 3D, but you failed to convince me of its necessity, anyways.

    Great review otherwise.


    • The 3-D doesn’t feel.perfunctory here as it does in so many movies these days. Hello, Clash of the Titans? It’s kind of what sold me on seeing the film, but if the subject already interests you, you should enjoy it anyway.


  6. Now wait a minute. You’re telling me this was made by the same guy that did Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo? Come on, how dumb do you think I am?

    Ohhhhh, I get it. He INTENDED it to be funny. He was after the oscar for the best parody of a PBS documentary — those educational shows where they take 5 minutes of interesting stuff and fill it out with an hour and a half of inane monologues delivered to the camera by folks passing themselves off as experts.

    Well, at least it’s reassuring to think that 32 millenia from now whoever is in control of the earth’s sources of entertainment is going to be able to amuse the rest of his species by taking clips out of this film and putting them into a documentary that shows how back in the 21st century there was a bunch of self-important detail-obsessed emotionally-committed academics who tried to pass themselves off as scientists (of all things!), entitled to tell the rest of humanity which caves they could go into and which they couldn’t. And they got away with it! Now that’s a tale worth telling!


    • Well obviously you were even more bored by the academics than I. A sensible editor could have removed all that and had a nice concise 30 minute documentary. I thought the caves were interesting at least.


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