May 30, 2011

Movie Quickie: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Here is a movie I stumbled across altogether by accident. I was looking for movies to see and aside from the standard run of Hollywood features I saw the name The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I had never heard of it and new nothing of it. I decided to take a quick peek. I discovered it was a documentary, that it was shot in 3D, but not with Cameron level equipment, and, most importantly, it was directed by Werner Herzog. That last bit is what sold it on me. Now, I cannot say that I know all that much about Herzog's filmography, but the he certainly is a fascinating filmmaker who has made all manner of films over the years.

There are few filmmakers who can make such disparate films in such a short period of time as Herzog. Look at his recent output that includes the likes of Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and now this. He is a man who is hard to pin down, but appears to go after whatever project interests him at the time and he has a few months free to shoot in.

With The Cave of Forgotten Dreams Herzog gained access to the Chauvet Cave in France. He and his team are the only people to have ever shot video here, not to mention one of the few people allowed in to see it first hand. for me, I had never heard of the cave before, I am glad I am now.

What is the Chauvet Cave? It is the location of the oldest known cave paintings by humankind, dating back some 32,000 years. Werner Herzog acts as our guide. They had limited time inside the cave and were restricted to a two foot wide walkway to shoot from. Regardless, the footage he was able to obtain is pretty spectacular.

We are treated to paintings of animals, horses, bison, rhinoceros, and groupings of handprints on the walls, each looking as if they had just been painted. How can this be? Well, the cave was sealed by a rock slide thousands of years ago and was only uncovered by some explorers looking for a new cave system in recent years. To see this on the big screen is something to behold, a look back in time sparking the imagination of what happened then and what may be happening in the present.

Werner Herzog's singular voice takes us on the journey through the past evidenced in the paintings. At times sounding silly, at other times utterly profound. He has a hypnotic way about him and his narration. Pair that with the amazing paintings and you have a movie that is definitely worth spending some time with.


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