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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Saw the film "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which is a Werner Herzog documentary about some wonderful paintings found in a cave by three spelunkers in France in 1994. Carbon dating indicates that they date from about 32 or 33 thousand years ago. If this dating is correct, these are the oldest works of art known by at least 10,000 years. I understand that there is some question about this very early date although this is not mentioned in the movie. The cave is known as the Chauvet Cave, being named after one of the discoverers.

The paintings are beautiful, displaying an amazingly high level of artistic talent and naturalism, and are well worth looking at (although they can be viewed online at no cost). On the other other hand, the movie becomes rather tedious in many spots--there are too many angelic choirs and an awful lot of talking heads, which seem to be a feature of Herzog documentaries. Some of the animal images are shown again and again...and again. Some of those I would like to have seen more of, I didn't. For instance, two animals identified as leopards looked more like spotted hyenas to me, and I would have liked to have had a closer look or a second look, anyway. There is an odd and somewhat irrelevant "postscript" at the end, the purpose of which was unclear to me unless it was supposed to be some kind of warning against global warming. Also, I don't know whether it was the somewhat jerky cinematography or the 3D, but watching the movie made me feel somewhat queasy.

I have a strong interest in pleistocene mammals and early man, so the movie was a "must see" for me. Briefly put, if cave art, cave men and prehistoric animals turn you on, go see the movie. Otherwise, probably best skipped. The whole topic could probably have been covered just as well in a one-hour TV special by some outfit like National Geographic. I suspect it probably has been the subject of such a documentary already.
post #2 of 6
As far as I know, Herzog and his team are the only crew ever allowed in the cave. And I think they were forced to shoot the primary footage in an incredibly short period of time...hours, not days. Something to do with the cave's extreme sensitivity to temperature changes, human CO2 emission, etc. Crazy. That said, I think I'd rather watch a Herzog film about people walking around with buckets on their heads in the snow (see Encounters at the End of the World) or a sculpting ski jumper (See the Ecstasy of Sculpter Steiner) than one about some "straightforward" subject.
post #3 of 6
Im going to try to see the film tomorrow. Given it's Werner Herzog and the subject matter, I wouldn't miss it. Ive seen the images in a book, but am still anxious to see them on a life-size scale.
post #4 of 6
to the OP, dude i think youre being very literal. a big part of what herzog is doing is just fucking with the whole documentary format. think of the strange people he digs up, the guy using his sense of smell to detect new caves, and the incredibly odd way he makes them look on camera. this is not a scientific study, at times its distinctly tongue in cheek. and hence the beautiful coda, albino alligators swimming in nuclear cooling waters that see each other in a strange mirroring. to me this sheds some weird light on what the primitive man might have wanted to do with his original image-creation, his relation with the creatures he depicted. or our relationship with him. or something. anyway, mutant alligators FTW.
post #5 of 6
I thought this threak was going to be about my ex-girlfriend's vag.
post #6 of 6
There is a moment in the Herzog film, which speaks of German romanticism, and I think the movie comes from a perspective that is very informed by the ideas of that movement. His analysis is emotional and radical and not very rigorous. If you look to Joseph Campbell, you'll love this.
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