By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The Chauvet Cave in Southern France is perhaps the most important archeological find in recent history. Discovered in 1994, the Cave contains the oldest paintings in the world, dating back as far as 32,000 years, more than twice as old as any other known sites. Werner Herzog became the first filmmaker to be allowed in to film in cramped conditions inside the cave. (The crew was not allowed to stray from a two foot wide walkway, and were accompanied by escorts the whole time.) Cave of Forgotten Dreams combines footage of the cave, interviews with the researchers working at the site, and his own philosophic narration in an attempt to better understand the nature of man.
“WHYYY did I have to play God?”
From Grizzly Man, to Encounters at the End of the World, to My Best Fiend, Werner Herzog has always been obsessed with humans as a species. His uncanny obsession with his work has often earned him the love of critics, and the respect of his actors and/or interview subjects.
And occasionally insane rage
His documentaries study both the achievements and frailties of man in equal measure. As labyrinthine as the cave the film is shot in, COFD explores the artistic soul that dwelled inside even early man. Utilizing a haunting score by Dutch cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger, and the meditative cinematography of Peter Zeitlinger, both frequent collaborators of the filmmaker, Herzog has created a simply gorgeous film.
The Paintings themselves are simply fascinating. Ages ago a landslide blocked the entrance of the cave, allowing it to go unspoiled for thousands of years, the result looks as fresh as the day it was painted. Herzog focuses on the small details, such as how the painters used creative techniques to mimic movement, or how hand prints can be used to identify a specific artist.
Herzog used 3D cameras in the shoot to show how the painters used the contours of the walls in conjunction with the dancing fires used to light the cave to create primitive optical illusions. I did not have the fortune to see this film in theaters, nor do I have a 3D television, so I had to settle for the standard presentation. I can say that even without 3D you can see the creative spark which early man possessed.
A fascinating look into the history of man.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever someone points out how old something is
Take a Drink: for every montage of cave paintings
Drink a Shot: when Herzog’s musing crosses from poetic into bizarre.