CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS 3D – The Review
When you’ve had a career as long and expansive as that of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s, the idea of slowing down may strike many as entirely reasonable… but, not for this man. His eclectic curiosity and passion for filmmaking seems to know no bounds, as is the case with his newest documentary CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS.
The film is sort of a guided tour through the Chauvet caves of Southern France, a monumental geological discovery made by pure chance. This massive cave was found to enclose an enormous and relatively pristine showcase of ancient rock art, as well as some critical important preserved bones of animals long since extinct.
To put it simply, if you’re an academic in the fields of art history, archeology, anthropology or paleontology, then CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is mandatory viewing. Especially when considering access to the cave is strictly controlled and extremely limited by the French government, due to the unmistakable significance of the cave’s contents.
As a film for the general viewing audience, however, my recommendation comes with a bit more caution. CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is a feature-length documentary commissioned, in part, by History Films, a branch of The History Channel. Given the historical and educational nature of the project, Herzog still cannot resist adding his own unique brand of philosophical and poetic musings.
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is narrated by Herzog himself, as are most of his more recent documentary outings. At times as amusing as they are poignant, Herzog’s whimsically reflective ramblings add an undeniably quirky element to the otherwise straight-forward film. The relative visual blandness of the film has less to do with any shortcomings by the filmmakers as it does the strict limitations placed on the crew by French authorities regarding where the crew could walk, when and for how long they could shoot.
One way in which Herzog chose to implement additional visual appeal was to shoot the entire film in 3D. Not just parts, strategically deigned to enhance certain elements, but the entire film, from beginning to end. This ultimately proved to be a double-edged sword. While this choice definitely adds a lot to the showcasing of the rock art featured in the film (more about this in a moment), the rest of the film becomes a dizzying, even potentially nauseating ride as the camera tosses and tumbles up the cliff face to the cave and through the often tight and narrow cave passages. For this reason, I emphasize those with motion sickness view the film with great caution!
On the up-side, the use of 3D in CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS was a magnificent choice for conveying and enhancing the technique used in creating the rock art. The 3D technology actually allows the texture and colors of the art to pop, even come to life, emphasizing the artists’ uncanny ability to work with the contour of the rock walls of the cave to mimic a sense of life and motion. This is truly fascinating, as these cave paintings are 30,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of rock art found to date.
Overall, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is far from being Herzog’s best documentary, but it does certainly succeed at being one of his most intriguing subjects. The pace can be a bit slow in parts, combined with the classical mood music; viewers may be tempted to nap at times. That aside, one thing Herzog has done is to take an idea and run with it, unimpeded by obstacles, proving once again that he’s the “Ironman” of indie filmmaking.