Archive for May, 2010

Inside the Wonder of “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

May 29, 2010 Leave a comment

I did not want to leave the 3D world that opened the Wonder of the 32,000–year-old Chauvet Cave in the South of France when Werner Herzog’s sublime “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” film finished its screening in the new Violet Crown film-house in downtown Austin.

I kept sitting in the theater not really wanting to go anywhere else as everyone else left. What could come close to matching what I just experienced for ninety blessed minutes? Why bother – I had just seen it all.

Scenes in the film moved me to cry with joy several times. It was a delight to see. Finally walking out – my overwhelming feeling was being joyful that I am a human being who had just met up with creative folks from tens of thousands years ago.

Having been a fan of Herzog films for decades, I looked forward to the Cave film opening in Austin. Read many reviews and each one glowed in awe of what Herzog created in the documentary. A few links are at the end of this blog.

Putting on the 3D glasses handed to me with my ticket, I found myself at first within a lush world of farmland splendor right outside the mountain home of the Cave. I reached to touch the vines right in front of me – my finger slid right through.

Not a fan of the current tawdry use of 3D in filmmaking, I believe Herzog fulfills the promise of 3D with elegance in his latest film. His camera follows a small group of scientists who enter the cave and walk on a two-foot-wide and slightly-elevated metal walkway installed by the French government to protect the ultra-pristine Cave after it had been rediscovered by an exploration team in 1994.

Herzog’s camera pans the cave walls where you see up to 400 Stone Age paintings of animals like horses, bison, tigers, pigs and rhinos. All the cave paintings depict animals from that time. The only drawing of a human is that of a lower torso of a woman who is gently encircled by a bison.

The images are stunning.

One of my favorites is a sketch of eight horses – all packed together in close head shots – with eight legs per horse to simulate running. It captures one of the most wonderous sights for me – horses running closely together.  Who drew that energetic collage on the wall? Why did s/he feel compelled to create it?

Herzog’s cameras move from one drawing to another to another accompanied by Werner’s thoughtful screen narration and wonderful interviews with the scientists who deftly provide many observations.

Herzog’s narration points out the painters did not live in the cave – only the animals did. The painters lived outside the cave and went inside to create art. The cave floor is littered with preserved animal skulls and other bone remains.

You also see some handprints on the cave walls. In one part of the cave, a wall is covered with an artist’s handprints. A European scholar in the film explains whoever made the prints had a slightly twisted little finger that sets it apart from other handprints on the wall.

I have seen every other Herzog film at least a few times in past decades. But “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” stands above them all.

The documentary tells the story of this incomprehensible wonder and then explores its meaning – artistic, spiritual, historical, philosophical and, ultimately, the bond we share with all people – Now and Then.

Colbert Report Video of Werner Herzog talking about Cave with Stephen Colbert during June 6, 2011, show on Comedy Central

Print Articles about “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” – “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”: Herzog’s dazzling journey to the dawn of art”

Los Angeles Times – “in a cave with Werner Herzog”

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