We Love… Cave of Forgotten Dreams, movie

Contemporary film-making meets humanity’s oldest known images in Werner Herzog’s latest film Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

For this project the director gained exclusive access to France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, which is home to 30,000 year old cave paintings and other Upper Paleolithic artifacts, including an eight year-old boy’s footprints and the remains of hearth fires, as well as the bones of a horned ibex and the skulls of extinct cave bears.

As a director Herzog’s central mission is to reconcile humankind’s disjointed relationship with the natural world—a reckoning personified by Timothy Treadwell, the real life protagonist of the director’s 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. Here, Herzog’s examination of the subject is less violent but no less profound, as he uses contemporary 3-D film technology to capture the scope, scale, and texture of prehistoric paintings depicting predators and prey, including lions, hyenas, bears, horses, aurochs, and even what appear to be partial human figures.

The paintings themselves are an artistic triumph, as is the mere fact that Herzog has gained entrée to this shuttered cave, open only to a few archeologists. The depicted figures gain motion from the natural contours of the cave’s walls, an artistic precedent to animation, and in-turn Herzog’s artistic use of 3-D film echoes these 30,000 year-old techniques, bringing the unending universality of humankind’s struggle with nature into stark, contemporary focus.

Philosophy and art aside, the film acts also as a time traveling spectacle unto itself, allowing the viewer to put such concerns to the side and enjoy the beauty of the art for beauty’s sake alone.

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