Today I took some time out to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams. My main reaction is that I really would have appreciated less verbal exposition from Werner Herzog. The most gripping portions of the film were invariably those which focused on the cave art with no commentary. These were the scenes where Herzog also seems to have leveraged 3D technology the most seamlessly. In contrast many of the outdoor shots were really disorienting, especially where were trees in the background. There was shot near the end where a person was approaching the camera with branches framing the background, and it was so jarring that I just looked away.
Not surprisingly all of the standard “talking heads” exposition really didn’t benefit at all from the 3D; it just distracted you while people were trying to explain various archaeological details. Speaking of which, I wish there was more of the scientific background here. Obviously that’s going to be my bias. Herzog naturally provide a spiritual rationale for why the original artists did what they did. That seems more plausible than anything else, but I still assume that the probability of any given hypothesis we offer being correct is going to be low. We just don’t know enough about the human past, and what might have motivated Paleolithic peoples.
If you do go to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams, don’t get discouraged in the middle section when the director allows the researchers to talk at length. The best scenes, with the least verbal and visual clutter within the cave, are near the end of the film. If you can, it might be most rational to purchase the ticket, go do something else, and show up for the last 30 minutes.
I’m not particularly a fan of Werner Herzog films, but I think I might check out his new documentary on Upper Paleolithic art, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Chauvet Cave in France is the subject of the film, which is in 3-D. In media appearances Herzog has claimed that the cave was sealed for 20,000 years before being discovered in 1994. To maintain its pristine character it is closed to the public, so the filmmakers clearly had to jump a lot of hoops to get their footage. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is opening in limited release this Friday, but from what I can tell that basically means it is showing at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York, period. So I’ll have to wait for it when it goes nationwide.