Cave of Forgotten Dreams
- Tom Dawson
- 2 March 2011
Werner Herzog's documentary about the ancient Chauvet-Pont-d-’Arc caves
Cinema’s capacity to transport the viewer into the most extraordinary of locations is memorably illustrated in Werner Herzog’s immersive new documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D. Back in 1994 the limestone Chauvet-Pont-d-’Arc caves in France’s Ardèche region were discovered by explorers, and it emerged that they contained the oldest ever paintings created by humans, dating back some 35,000 years (it’s estimated that a rockslide some 25,000 years ago had sealed the entrance, thus preserving the art work). Last year Herzog became the first ever filmmaker to gain access to, what he calls in his distinctive voiceover, the ‘place where the modern soul awakened.’
Despite working under strict restrictions in terms of access and lighting, Herzog’s images are filled with a sense of awe. The vast chambers of the complex contain towering stalactites and animal bones strewn on the floor, whilst on the walls are the charcoal depictions of all manner of animals, including mammoth, minotaur and bison. The 3D technology captures the contours of the rock formations, imbuing some of these artistic representations with an illusion of movement. Admittedly the scientific interviewees here lack the charisma of Herzog’s most interesting ‘characters’, but there’s a wonderful coda involving albino crocodiles at a neighbouring nuclear reactor plant, and interesting questions are raised about why humans feel the impulse to pass on their knowledge through art to future generations.
Selected release from Friday 25 March.