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Outstandingly breath taking exploration of The Chauvet Caves.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (DVD)
Member Name: kirstymc
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (DVD)
Advantages: Get a glimpse of life 35000 years ago
My boyfriend is a massive Werner Herzog fan and when he pitched this film to me as a night out watching a 3d documentary about cave paintings I must admit I scoffed and whinged about how that was the most boring thing I could think of. However I have had to eat a massive slice of humble pie as The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is simply the most stunning thing I have seen on film.
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary by renowned film maker Werner Herzog in which he gains exclusive access to the Chavet Caves of Southern France. The caves were only discovered in 1994 and the secrets they held have remained preserved for over 35000 years. The documentary sees Werner and a small team go into the caves to film the beautiful cave paintings that have been hidden from the world for thousands of years.
Fans of Herzog will know that he never lakes things easy for himself. As the site is of such archaeological importance very few people are allowed inside and this is the first time a film maker has been given access. The site is so delicate that Herzog was only allowed to take in a small team, using hand held cameras and lights (Werner himself has to act as light man), they could only access the caves on a small metal walk way and were not allowed to touch anything. This is Werner Herzogs first 3d film.
I went to see this film at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle in 3d. I have to say this is the first time I have seen a 3d film where it felt that the 3d aspect was necessary. The 3d is amazing - from the first entry into the cave the walls close in on you. This makes it feel like you are there with them - essential as this is a place that you will almost definitely never be able to experience for real. However the most important aspect of the 3d was to convey the amazing ways the painters had used the shape of the walls as integral parts of the paintings. Bulges in the cave walls were used to depict the bulges of a lions shoulder or the hide of a bison. They had used the contours of the cave to bring to life the myriad of animals they were portraying. It also instils a desire to reach out and touch the walls of the cave but of course like the film makers we cannot. That said Herzog naughtily tips a cheeky nod to the medium of 3d by throwing in a spear throwing scene with what he regards comically as a rather inept spear thrower.
The film is lit solely by hand held lighting that dances around the cave adding to the feeling that you are not just watching the film but are in it. The soundtrack is very limited and at one point we are invited to listen to the music of the cave as everyone becomes silent - were are told you may just be able to hear your own heart beat.
I found this film simply mind blowing it was just too much for my little brain to comprehend that these paintings were 35000 years old. The paintings were as fresh as if they were painted yesterday. I had expected to see some primitive daubs but this was something else, every picture is beautifully detailed and reveals a past long forgotten - at one point were are informed that there had long been debate about whether or not the lions that had long died out in this region had manes, it is clear from the paintings that the did not, no amount of looking at skeletons could have revealed such information. The paintings have an amazing animation about them, they seem to jump off the walls and Herzog regards the painters use of drawing animals with super imposed legs as "proto cinema".
In addition to examining the paintings the film brilliantly speculates upon the characters who existed in the caves. We follow one of the painters around the cave by his distinctive hand print which has a crooked little finger. We also see the foot print of a child in front of that of a wolf, we are asked to speculate whether this child was the soon to be victim of the wolf, did they walk side by side as friends or were they simply there thousands of years apart? The walls still bear the black scars of the torches of the inhabitants alongside the deep claw marks of the bears who also inhabited the caves at some point in history.
The film itself is of course narrated by the unmistakeably hypnotic tones of Herzog himself. He takes us on a magical journey into what he himself describes as "the beginnings of the modern human soul". Herzogs own awe at what he is seeing palpable and you cannot help join him in sheer astonishment at what you are seeing.
I really cannot recommend this film enough it is completely breath taking. It was a priviledge to be given access to such an amazing part of history.
Summary: Wener Herzog reveals the secrets of the Chauvet Cave
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