33,000 Year Old Art in “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”
It’s hard to say what’s more intense: Werner Herzog‘s choice of subject matter or his voice. Listening to his droll, deadpan narration is like watching a ship sink — but I mean that in the best possible way. His latest documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” applies his trademark intensity (in 3D!) to an uncharacteristically sublime topic: ancient cave paintings.
In 1994, incredible paintings were discovered in a cave above the Ardèche River in southern France. The images, mostly of Ice Age animals, are far more detailed and realistically rendered than most cave art. Whoever the ancient artist or artists were, they had some natural talent.
The images are estimated to have been created as long as 33,000 years ago, predating other known cave art by roughly 7,000 years. Owing to a landslide that occurred about 20,000 years ago, blocking off the entrance to the cave, it has gone virtually untouched by modern man. After its discovery in the mid-nineties, it was promptly seized by the French government in order to preserve the images for posterity.
By all accounts, Herzog’s film is an accomplishment simply in and of the fact that he and his crew gained access to the ancient art gallery. I haven’t seen the film, but judging from the trailer, I’m guessing that once inside, Herzog fires his free-associative existential mental motor up to a fever pitch, musing about what art this old says about our collective imagination and human history.
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” is now playing in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, but should be coming to a theater near you soon.