Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the miraculously preserved, oldest known pictorial creations of humankind, maybe 32,000 years old.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
“What a gift Werner Herzog offers with Cave of Forgotten Dreams, an inside look at the astonishing Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc – and in 3D* too. In southern France, about 400 miles from Paris, the limestone cave contains a wealth of early paintings, perhaps from as long ago as 32,000 years. Here, amid gleaming stalactites and stalagmites and a carpet of animal bones, beautiful images of horses gallop on walls alongside bison and a ghostly menagerie of cave lions, cave bears and woolly mammoths. Multiple red palm prints of an early artist adorn one wall, as if to announce the birth of the first auteur…
The cave was discovered in December 1994 by three French cavers… The French government soon took custody of the cave, and ordinary visitors were barred to protect it, as Mr Herzog explains in his distinctive voice-over, from the kind of damage done to other prehistoric caverns. Being not remotely ordinary, he persuaded the government to allow him and a tiny crew to join the researchers who visit the cave to plumb its secrets… As the smooth-handed director of photography Peter Zeitlinger wields the camera, Mr Herzog walks and even crawls for your viewing pleasure. He’s an agreeable, sometimes characteristically funny guide, whether showing you the paintings or talking with the men and women who study them…. It takes a big subject to upstage Mr Herzog… The cave largely keeps his more indulgently schticky side in check.” — Manohla Dargis, NY Times
*The 3D is marvellously effective at suggesting how the artist(s) used the contours of the caves to suggest movement, but we will also present the film in 2D for the 3D-wary.