Review: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Director: Werner Herzog

Starring: Werner Herzog

Released: 25/03/2011

Rating: U

3D has long been the reserve of the big blockbuster. Of the Avatar’s of the world. Documentary has not exactly been the place you’d expect to find it.

And perhaps that is why Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams is such a welcome relief.

Herzog has been given unprecedented access to film inside the Chauvet cave in France. Only discovered in 1994 after tens of millennia hidden by a huge landslide, the cave has perfectly preserved a series of cave paintings dating more than 40,000 years into the past. From pre-historic animals, to relics of an ancient mankind, the result is completely transfixing.

The art is simply astonishing, and every time a new shot appears the audience becomes further engrossed in a world that has been forgotten by time itself.

Shot by a crew of just four people – including Herzog himself – the film is lit almost entirely by battery powered hand held lights, and there are moments when the 3D could have done with a little more light. It’s a little bit motion blurred in places.

That being said, when it does work its simply beautiful, and it’s clear that these are pictures which need to be seen to be believed. The paintings will never be seen by the public eye – as the French government have kept the cave under tight security ever since it discovery – so it’s all the more reason this film deserves to find an audience. People deserve this deep and utterly remarkable vision into our past.

“We will never know what the people who painted these were thinking. We will never know what their dreams and their aspirations were.” Herzog says, talking with one of his interviewees – an archaeologist who helped to research the cave when it was first discovered.

This is the second 3D cave movie of the year – following on from the rather rubbish Sanctum 3D – and it’s fair to say this outstrips its predecessor by about 100%. Building a fascinating and interesting narrative, and mixing it in with stunning imagery, this is one dream which should never be forgotten.

James Gordon