Werner Herzog’s breathtaking documentary—the estimable German director’s first film to be shot in the 3D format—gives viewers an unprecedented look at, as he accurately describes it, “one of the great discoveries in the history of human culture”: the prehistoric drawings in the Chauvet- Pont-d’Arc Cave in the south of France. First discovered in 1994, the images—including depictions of lions and mammoths—were made 30,000 years ago and are the earliest known human art. Herzog and his tiny crew were granted special permission to enter the cave, which remains off-limits to the public, by the French minister of culture; the director’s interviews with Gallic historians, scientists, and other experts help provide context for this extraordinary site. Yet no one is a better guide for this fascinating expedition than Herzog himself, astutely noting that the cave drawings form a “proto-cinema.” And yet, for all the wonder these images of the past instill in us, Herzog cautions us to be mindful of the future. A nuclear power plant close to the cave has produced mutant albino crocodiles— creatures even more bizarre than the extinct ones sketched by our forebears thousands of years ago.
“What a gift Werner Herzog offers with Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Much like this anthropologist and Ms. Deschamps, the explorer who cried out, “They were here” on seeing a painted mammoth, many of the researchers in the documentary seem deeply moved by the cave. In some ways they are communing with the dead, summoning up the eternally lost. For his part, Mr. Herzog uses the paintings to riff on the origin of art, at one point connecting overlapping images of horses — some of which, with their open mouths, convey a sense of movement — to cinema itself.”
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.
Best Documentary – New York Film Critics Circle Awards (2011)
LANGUAGE English, German, French
RUNNING TIME 90’
PRODUCTION Canada, USA, France, Germany, 2011
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35mm, Blu-ray, DVD, 3D: DCP