Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Misses the mark, albeit beautifully

By Eliza Rosenberry

Not everyone wants to watch German director Werner Herzog's movies.  They can be a little frustrating and too much for even the most philosophical of viewers.  If you've even heard of him, it's probably because of his crazy antics (example one, example two) and not for his directorial skills.  His best-known film in recent years is probably Grizzly Man, but my favorite is Encounters at the End of the World.  Herzog attempts to find humanity in the unlikeliest of circumstances, a goal at which he often remarkably succeeds.  Once you adapt to the thickly-accented, poetically-motivated narration, his documentaries are probably the best artistic efforts to capture and explore extremes of human existence in recent years.

That said, Cave of Forgotten Dreams was pretty disappointing despite being a documentary  filmed and shown in 3D.  Particularly in the context of his other documentaries, in which narration compliments visual and sometimes falls silent to allow footage to speak for itself, Herzog's newest venture seems contrived and limited.  The film is about the breathtaking French Chauvet cave with the oldest cave paintings (oldest artistic achievements of any kind, the film is quick to note) yet discovered.  Herzog does his usual interviews with involved persons, from the scientists who research the physical nature of the cave to the artistic historians who analyze the paintings themselves.  The film uses 3D to its advantage, certainly; it often allows the viewer to feel as confined and claustrophobic as the cave itself.  Spatiality is developed in Cave of Forgotten Dreams like nothing I've ever seen.

But to be perfectly frank, it seems as though the film crew got funding and access to these severely-restricted caves and showed up on Day One of filming only to discover that they had practically nothing to work with.  Through arguably little fault of his own, Herzog fails to uncover the fascinating characters and personal histories which make his other films so rich.  The cave itself is certainly beautiful and breathtaking, but with such limited access and content (you can only look at so many rock formations before they begin to look the same) the film gets antsy.  Herzog randomly inserts a scene from another cave, elsewhere in Europe, and a boring interview with a man wearing caveman-style garb talking about this unrelated cave.  Although I understand the film's efforts to compliment its limited subject matter, and extend the length of the film itself, this interview only drew attention to the insufficiency of the film's content.

Even though Herzog's heart is in the right place and his filmmaking is admirable and motivated, Cave of Forgotten Dreams falls significantly short of being the astounding, game-changing 3D documentary it was purported to be.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams, C

Get in touch with Eliza via Twitter: @elizarosenberry or email:

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