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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 DOC NYC: Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Posted by Melissa Silvestri on Nov 03, 2010
Source: Festival Coverage

It's business as usual for legendary Werner Herzog -- the prolific documentary and narrative filmmaker (My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans) utilizes a technology that we would normally associate with fiction films, and applies it to the soulful and mesmerizing 3-D documentary. With the help of archeologists in the south of France, Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams visits the Chauvet Cave, which is populated with not only a damp and quiet eeriness, but cave drawings of long-extinct animals and pictorial depictions of ancient mankind.

2010 DOC NYC First Festival Edition

Herzog’s camera combined with stunning 3-D technology truly draws the audience into the cave, listening to the dripping off of stalagmites and practically touching the etchings of human figures and wild animals, including extinct creatures like the cave lion and the cave bear. Aside from Herzog’s narration, the film is dominated by the archaeologists’ insightful commentary on the way that man once lived, and the stories that they told through their drawings. The cave’s ground is so fragile that the people can only walk on a two-foot wide walkway, and at times, cannot get close enough to the walls to truly observe the drawings.

Herzog allows the audience to see the drawings for themselves, sans commentary or interviews, in a quiet segment near the end of the film, where the camera just pans over intricately detailed drawings like two large beasts locked in horns, their legs braced for action, or the multiple legs of a man meant to portray him walking, as if he was being animated via flipbook. The peace of the cave combined with the visual effects brings serenity into the theater, a hushed silence, as if the audience is all on this rare journey together.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a breathtaking film to highlight the wonders of this cave, which, due to toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide as well as fragile ground, is not open to the general public. Herzog does a great service in bringing this natural beauty to the big screen.

NYC DOC screening times.

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