Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Written and directed by Werner Herzog
Reviewed by Seth Rogovoy
What to make of Werner Herzog at this point in his career? It’s hard to know how to take him, even as he continues to make brilliant, inspiring, beautiful films that ask deeply profound questions about what it means to be human, as he does in his latest, the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Just as Herzog wound up with sole possession of Timothy Treadwell’s alleged home movies of himself living with grizzly bears in Alaska (which Herzog turned into the “documentary” film, Grizzly Man), Herzog ‘coincidentally’ winds up the only non-scientist and filmmaker granted access to one of the allegedly most stunning paleontological discoveries in the history of the universe – the Cave of Chauvet in France, containing a treasure trove of the oldest extant cave paintings by human beings, what Herzog seemingly believes to be the Stone Age equivalent of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in what they reveal about early man and his relationship to nature and spirituality.
As always, Herzog is utterly convincing in his argument, brilliant in his camerawork and editing, poetic in his narration, and constantly tweaking the viewer’s sense of believability as well as humor. Herzog seems to revel in his own self-parody while he is ostensibly making a totally serious documentary about a totally serious subject.
It’s a mind-blowing film with a surprise ending that, in fine Herzogian form, will have you scratching your head on the way out wondering if you’ve been duped once again, or been witness to one of the most profound works of art (or works of art about works of art – Herzog even finds a way to connect these 30,000 year old cave paintings to the art of cinema – how perfect, how Herzog) you’ll see in years.
(N.B.) This film is apparently available in two versions: 2-D and 3-D. I saw the 2-D version.
Award-winning cultural critic Seth Rogovoy is editor-in-chief of the Rogovoy Report (www.rogovoyreport.com) and BerkshireDaily and the official film blogger for the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, Mass.