Review :: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

September 30th 2011


Just fantastic. German auteur Werner Herzog once again reveals his appetite for the extraordinary in his latest film, paying homage to his artistic predecessors of over 30,000 years. Granted exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, Herzog and his team bring to the screen the oldest cave paintings ever discovered, immaculately preserved for centuries by a rockslide which sealed the cave until its rediscovery in 1994.

One of the key figures of New German Cinema, Herzog has spent a career compiling a collection of bizarre and breathtaking images in response to what he perceives as the failure of society in general to produce adequate images; images which say anything about our experiences. His films raise questions about the nature of film, art and life, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams is no exception. Herzog is also known for his at times obsessive commitment to his projects and strong encouragement of emerging filmmakers (see Werner Herzog eats his Shoe).

‘Now we are going to be silent and listen to the cave, and maybe we might hear our own hearts beating.’

The central theme that runs through is the sense of affinity we feel when looking at these images. What is this commonality, this humanness that speaks to us across the void of 32,000 years? The innate need to communicate our experiences to one another seems not to have changed all that much, and parallels are drawn between Herzog’s art and that of the anonymous cave artists. These images are familiar to us; we can draw comparisons from the Minotaurs of Picasso to The Lion King. The film culminates in a captivating sequence in which the camera simply pans back and forth across the exquisite paintings.

As with Herzog’s previous films, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is populated by a cast of strange and fascinating characters: keep an eye out for the Master Perfumer who sniffs out caves with his highly trained nose and the historian who plays ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on a homemade bone flute.

With 3D technology still ironing out some of the kinks, there are moments in the film which may boggle your eyes slightly, but the soaring camerawork capturing the surrounding landscapes, and those that bring to life the contours of the cave, giving movement to the images, more than justify the decision to film in 3D.

If you’re familiar with Herzog’s work you will know, as soon as you hear his inimitable narration that you’re in for an experience of provocation and wonder too rarely achieved in cinemas. If you don’t know Werner Herzog, get familiar.

What: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Where: Dendy Newtown

When: Showing now

How much: Ticket cost


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