A documentary about some drawings in some caves may not sound like the most entertaining or cinematic of experiences. However, when the drawings in question are the oldest discovered in the world, and when the director is Werner Herzog, you know it may well be worth your interest.
The caves in question are the Chauvet Caves in Southern France. They are considered so important that only a limited number of people have ever had access to them, and Herzog had to seek special permission from the French government to film there. The film itself may be the last time a professional crew is allowed in such a unique place.
As one would expect from a documentary of this nature, the film’s footage of inside the caves is inter-spliced with experts commenting on various features of the cave and its drawings.
Herzog seems to have the strange ability to either attract eccentric people to him, or bring out the idiosyncratic from his interviewees. In short, the people he interviews are quite bizarre. Or at least are presented that way.
Part of what makes them unusual is their almost religious belief in the cave and its drawings. Herzog presents the cave as a kind of cathedral. The music he chooses; the slow way he pans across the paintings for large parts of the film; and the way its believers speak of the space; make the film into a kind of spiritual experience.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere Herzog creates. Especially when we consider these drawings are the oldest form of communication we have with our ancestors. Herzog asks us to consider why it is animals that make up the vast majority of the paintings? What was the spiritual significance of these creatures to the generations of people who drew them?
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the 3D in the movie actually does enhance the viewing experience. Very simply, it brings out the contours of the cave, which allows us to see the drawings in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the use of such technology.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D is a very unique and compelling experience. Herzog masterfully brings us into a space full of mystery, wonder and spirituality. A quite remarkable film about a quite remarkable place made by a quite remarkable filmmaker.