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article imageOp-Ed: 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' delivers 3D masterpiece Special

By Melissa Hayes     Jul 10, 2011 in Entertainment
When scientists make a crucial discovery, more often than not, it’s delivered to the masses in plain text, broken down with technical jargon and layer upon layer of sound, hard fact—which is fine, but it doesn’t really give you the whole picture.
You can’t truly comprehend the meaning behind such findings short of seeing them with your own eyes, pondering over their place in the world and the stories behind them. And it’s this complete and satisfying understanding that is so expertly delivered by iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man) in his 3D documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
An official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2010, the unique, explorative film offers viewers an experience akin to actually stepping into southern France’s ancient, crystal-encrusted cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc and really witnessing, and realizing what has been identified as man’s oldest known cave art—something, that up until now, only a privileged few had been permitted to see.
Before being unearthed by scientists in 1994, Chauvet Cave spent 20,000 years perfectly sealed off from the world by a fallen rock face, effectively preserving a number of pristine 30,000-year-old charcoal paintings adorning the textured walls of its stretching, football field-sized interior.
In addition to envisioning and directing the ninety-five minute piece—as well as gaining permission to film the fragile, restricted area—Herzog lent his voice to the film, guiding the audience through the cave, as its sharp curves appear to reach beyond the screen and reveal beautiful, ice age paintings of prehistoric mammals like mammoths, cave bears, rhinos, lions and horses—all seeming as fresh as they were the day they were so carefully drawn, thousands of years ago. Throughout the narrative, Herzog also offers musing on the art’s origins, what it means to world history and its time-bending connection to the human spirit.
The director’s narration is complemented by commentary from a menagerie of experts, including art historians, archeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists, who offer their, at times, comedic, and vastly knowledgeable insight on the historical paintings of Chauvet Cave.
One scientist, during his interview, addressed the term homo-sapien—which loosely means “he who knows,” and deemed it not altogether accurate, which when you really think about it, is completely true. I feel like one of the main messages of the film is that it’s the really interesting things about these primitive people that we will never really know—how they actually lived and interacted, and their connections to the now extinct beasts they roamed the Earth with in a time so far removed from 2011. We can only use our imaginations and the impressions we get from looking at the paintings.
And it is through showcasing these paintings that the film makes excellent use of 3D technology, adding an extra something to the already breathtaking subject matter. I’m not really one for 3D—and apparently neither was Herzog, before Cave of Forgotten Dreams—but in this case, I think it was entirely appropriate, and the overall effect is stunning.
After seeing the film, and sleeping on it, the only real possible negative I could find was that while some may appreciate Herzog’s what could be considered unnecessarily “arty” approach in his narrative; the strictly logical viewer might have problems with it. I personally found it to be inspiring and felt that he somehow accomplished the perfect balance between fact and emotion.
In short, if you have the ability to see Herzog’s latest, you should make the effort to do so. You don’t have to be a science junkie, this writer definitely isn’t, to fully appreciate the significance of the awe-inspiring art—and hey, you’ll probably learn something too.
So rarely is it that entertainment can so easily complement the usually overly complicated scientific, as is perfectly accomplished in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. So take a break from your comedies, actions and dramas and visit Chauvet Cave, you won’t be disappointed.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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