Documentary of the Day – Cave of Forgotten Dreams
February 4, 2012 Leave a comment
The beautiful thing about documentaries is the use of the medium to transport the viewer into a world we didn’t know existed. Sometimes the documentary is about a social issue in the world, maybe something dealing with a small town struggle or a minority group that struggles with a difficult issue, other times the film is an exercise in showcasing the splendor of the world through the lens of neutral camera. It’s a wonderful experience, watching documentaries, because you never fully know what to expect when sitting in front of a screen and being pulled along a journey into the unknown.
It wouldn’t be right for me to exclude a filmmaker like Werner Herzog from my month long documentary film posts. If there is one thing that Herzog can do, other than being awesome and imposing, is tell a story. He goes to incredible lengths and great expense to bring us some of the most moving and fascinating subjects in our world to life. He can show humanity at it’s most intimate and showcase the wonderment of life all with a reverence and care that rivals that of curators of history.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a film that is 30,000 years in the making. Untouched by the harshness of the world, settled deep underground and a reminder of how far we have come as a world. A vast cave that houses the earliest bit of our development as humans; painting, tools, and early look at life. These findings are preserved with the utmost care, not only by the air inside the cave, but also by those that treasure our past. It’s a cave that few people ever get to see. It is not open to the public, people who enter into the cave must be vetted and have to wear special suits and protective covers over their shoes. To show the wondrous find and earliest evidence of human development, Werner Herzog is probably the single best person to show the world a hidden treasure.
Now the documentary was shot in 3-D which I never got to see, but from reading about the film and all the reviews, it was probably the single greatest use of 3-D ever. To display to the world the findings of the Chauvet Cave, Herzog utilized the medium of film to create one of the most angelic experiences ever. Slow camera pans, beautiful framing of paintings and findings, all scored with the chorus of heralding angels. It’s almost too beautiful to describe and I am just talking about a cave with paintings in it. That is a testament to the cinematography and care that went into creating this spectacle.
The film is heavy on the visuals with a peppering of testimonials and insight into what all of it means. The historians and archeologists tell a tale of civilization and their admiration of the cave shows through. Herzog frames each picture and scene of the cave in warm, basking of light that highlights the simplistic, but far reaching impact of such simple paintings. It’s really a film that must be seen, only to admire a piece of early civilization. It’s a fantastic documentary that is available to stream on Netflix, but if you are one of the lucky few who have a 3D tv, I would rush out to view it.