I basically haven’t stopped talking about Cave of Forgotten Dreams since I saw it two weeks ago, which I think is telling.
The first film I’ve seen in 3D that actually gained something from the process, Cave of Forgotten Dreams takes us inside the Chauvet Cave in southern France, home of cave paintings dated at 30,000 years old. The cave had been sealed off by a rock slide 20,000 years ago, and was only rediscovered in 1994.
Werner Herzog and his three member team were under heavy restrictions filming inside, including the limits on the size of the team itself, where they could go, the sort of equipment they could bring in, and how long they could remain inside the cave (even the moisture from breathing has damaged cave walls).
Working within these restrictions, Herzog made the decision to film in 3D, so as to best capture the contours of the walls of the cave. It’s brilliant, actually. It’s unlikely the cold lights would have been sufficient, and by bringing the audience into the actual shape of the cave he allows us to experience as closely as possible the intentions of those long-ago artists. One of my favorite things in film is when limitations lead to creative solutions, and a 3D film about cave paintings is definitely creative.
Herzog gives the cave plenty of room to speak for itself. It is breathtaking, images (mostly of animals) instantly recognizable, the oldest art gallery in the world. If you have the opportunity to see this film in the theater, take it.
Cave is definitely a Herzog film. Only he would interview an archeologist & discover he used to be in the circus. Only he would end the film considering the thoughts of albino crocodiles. And only he is the most perfect choice for an archeological film that illuminates the nature of the soul.