Film Reviews


By • Jun 7th, 2011 •

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Werner Herzog’s CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is the eccentric, German documentary maker’s first foray into 3-D and it is, as usual, off-the-wall. In this case, Herzog’s typically difficult-to-film subject is a celebrated cave-wall in Southern France, buried for 32,000 years and only visited previously, since its’ discovery in 1994, by archeologists and paleontologists.

I wish I could comment authoritatively on how 3-D shapes the curved configuration of the cave, but my trifocal lenses plus prisms (reducing my double vision) made me feel fortunate to see the film in 1-D shades of green and pink.

I was grateful to see the Chauvet Cave’s splendid animal drawings close up, as Herzog lets us view them in the closing moments of the film. To think that these cave paintings are twice as old and perhaps twice as fine as the famed Lascaux Caves, (now closed from the accreted-mould of human breath) is miraculous enough, without Herzog’s own heavy breathing,

Herzog’s speculation as to whether a boy is walking in amity with a wolf or is being pursued by one, is as fallacious as his comparing the cavemen’s aesthetic taste to the German 19th century Romantic era and love of Wagner. This comparison drew titters from the audience, as the director held on a rocky arch in the area.

However, these primitive artists concentrated only on “the beasts of the field,” not Romantic crags. (Sure, that arch is a sublime subject for a 19th Century Romantic landscape, and is clearly a favorite of the director’s).

Herzog’s fleshing out the film by having a paleontologist play “The Star Spangled Banner” on a primitive flute (I tend to think that caveguys never knew our anthem) or whether the albino crocodiles, created by warm run-off water from a nearby nuclear reactor, will be sentient in years to come, strikes me as profoundly dumb. I think that in addition to writing, directing and narrating (with his luscious, schnitzely accent) this documentary, Herzog should find himself an editor with a down-to-earth bent (less caught up in the cavemens’ purported dreams) who would cut the loony speculations out of Herzog’s script.

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