Country: France (2011)
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
“Powerful things, deep things.”
– Julian Monay, French archaeologist, on the Chauvet cave paintings.
The subject matter of Cave of Forgotten Dreams lends itself well to poetic cinematography. In 1994, the oldest cave paintings known to man were discovered in the Ardèche Valley in south-central France. Documentary film-maker, Werner Herzog was given special access to the caves to make a film about these extraordinary paintings. Not mere etchings, but spectacular, elaborate panels that provide unique insight into the life of prehistoric man.
Theirs was a natural world populated by lions, rhino and buffalo; creatures which have long since disappeared from the European landscape.
What were their dreams? Werner Herzog’s distinctive narration asks.
Set to a haunting soundtrack and gently illuminated by shimmering torch light, the camera performs wondrous panoramas across the herds of galloping horses and charging bison on the walls of the cave.
Herzog thoughtfully discusses the nature of existence and time:
“They speak to us from a familiar but distant universe.”
“Will we ever be able to understand the vision of the artists across the abyss of time?”
Who were the Paleolithic artists that created such magnificent images in the Chauvet caves? We cannot see their faces, but by gazing at their ancient paintings we can peer into their minds. We see the same love of beauty and truth that we pursue in our present day lives.