Cave Of Forgotten Dreams Movie Review
Discovered in 1994, the Chauvet caves in southern France were sealed by a landslide 20,000 years ago and contain the oldest paintings ever seen. More than 30,000 years old, they depict the wildlife of prehistoric Europe - horses, rhinos, lions, bison - with a remarkable sense of movement. And the caves themselves are pristinely beautiful, with stalactites, stalagmites and a remarkable collection of animal bones. But what was the world like back then, when Europe was under ice and our ancestors lived alongside Neanderthals?
Herzog takes us into the cave with his camera crew, crowded onto narrow walkways and forbidden from touching anything. The 3D high-def images beautifully catch the shapes of the cave walls, on which we see what are essentially 3D paintings. And by playfully moving his light-sources, Herzog creates the dramatic illusion that the images are in motion. We feel like we're watching living artwork, which in a way is what it is. And we also vividly sense the link between ourselves and our pre-history.
In addition, Herzog and his crew travel to other sites to talk to experts and explore the use of paintings and music during the period, with revealing results (expert Hein plays the American national anthem on a prehistoric flute). And through it all, Herzog's deadpan observations continually surprise us with their askance insight. We have no way of even guessing what life was like that long ago, so are we looking back at our ancestors like, say, a radioactive albino alligator looks at us today?
Watching this film is perhaps the closest thing to time travel that we can ever experience. And through Herzog's exclusive access, it's also the only chance we'll ever get to soak up the atmosphere inside Chauvet. With Herzog behind the camera we experience this place and the resonance it conveys with a remarkable clarity. And his deadpan observations are hugely entertaining. In other words, watching this film is probably even more thrilling than clambering into the cave in person.