Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Film Review)

The Chauvet Cave was discovered in 1994.  A group of scientists found an entrance to a cave blocked for centuries.  As they explored the cave, they came across a series of paintings on the walls, depicting various animals from a pre-historic time.  Analysis of the paintings revealed them to be more than 30,000 years old, making them the oldest ever to be recorded.  Such is the delicate nature of the atmosphere in the cave, and the age of the paintings, only scientists have been allowed access to the cave, and even then, their time in the cave has been limited.

Enter Werner Herzog.  After gaining permission from the French minister of culture to film inside the cave, Herzog and three crew members were allowed to film the paintings, and the scientists working inside the cave.  The result is a fascinating look at pre-historic art and an insight into the culture of our distant ancestors.

Footage of the interior of the cave is interspersed with conversations between Herzog and various experts, who form a picture of how these ancient artists lived, and how the environment at that time shaped their lives.  These conversations are, at times, a little dry and information heavy, but there are occasional moments of humours, sometimes unintentional.  One archaeologist reveals he used to work in the circus before switching careers, and a middle-aged French lady casually points out a lion’s scrotum in one of the paintings.

But the star of the show is undoubtedly the artwork adorning the walls of the cave.  Perfectly preserved and wonderfully detailed, it could legitimately be called one of the wonders of the world, and as such is a must see.

David Dougan


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