500 Days Of Film Reviews Cave Of Forgotten Dreams - An Extraordinary Documentary About Art… Really, Really Old Art… like 32,000 Years Old…
In 1996 a group of speleologists* were trekking in an area of the Ardeche region of France when they made a staggering discovery.
They found a huge cave - undiscovered for tens of thousands of years.
What they saw inside the cave was even more astounding: beautiful art approximately 32,000 years old - the oldest paintings ever discovered.
Cave Of The Forgotten Dreams takes you down into the Chauvet Cave (named after one of its discoverers) and immerses you in a space with a history almost too great to comprehend.
Is It Any Good?
This is a truly extraordinary film.
The French government has forbidden any tourists to visit the cave so this film is the closest most of us will ever get to the treasures inside (see random observations below). This is because other paleolithic caves have been badly damaged by the mold caused by the breath of thousands of tourists… eugh.
The film is directed by Werner Herzog. He describes the cave as a perfect time capsule - a frozen flash of a moment in time. It has a eerie quality, a feeling that the painters have only just left. The art looks astoundingly fresh.
This has led to concerns that Chauvet Cave is fake. However, scientists have mapped the entire space and used carbon dating technology to authenticate their findings.
The cave has a profound impact on everyone who visits. Herzog tells of a feeling of being watched from its dark recesses - as if the artists are there, preserved as well.
It is also really interesting to learn about the tricky conditions the filmmakers were working in. They have produced the most amazing footage nonetheless! I particularly loved the way they used flat, hand-held lights that they moved to create the sensation of firelight.
I was just blown away by the cave. I won’t tell you everything that is down there because I think that might spoil your experience of the film.
All I will say is go watch it and be amazed like me!
* Speleology (also spelled spelæology or spelaeology) is the scientific study of caves. No, me neither.
I couldn’t get this film on any of my streaming services so had to buy the DVD. This was, in the end, a good thing because I really enjoyed the DVD extras. The interview with Werner Herzog was particularly interesting.
The only downside, for me, about this film is that, part-way through, Herzog interviews a couple of French experts (three I think) and they talk to him in French. Of course, I do not expect them to all want to speak in English but I could have done with some subtitles. There are none - trust me, I looked! It was a real shame for me as I was so interested in everything they had to say.
This film was shown in 3D at the cinema to really give audiences an immersive experience. However, I still felt like I was in the cave with the scientists and filmmakers when I watched in 2D.
I mention that this film is the closest that most of us will get to being inside Chauvet Cave in the knowledge that the French Government has built a replica of the cave for tourists. I haven’t visited this replica site but I can’t see that it would hold the magic of the real thing as witnessed by this film. Click here for a art critic’s opinion: Don't Fall For A Fake
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