Director: Werner Herzog
Language: English, French, German
Duration: 90 min.
An exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. Providing a unique glimpse of the pristine artwork dating back to human hands over 30,000 years ago, almost twice as old as any previous discovery.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary directed by Werner Herzog. It premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Set in the south of France along the Ardeche River, it is a wonderfully engrossing look at the oldest prehistoric cave paintings known to exist.
Right from the opening shot we are witness to Herzog's unique documentary style at work. It's the end of winter, the camera starts at waist level and moves forward through a vineyard, floating and drifting with an otherworldly perspective. If you look closely you can notice a small cloud of dust and tiny blades of dead grass kicked up by what can only be a small remote controlled helicopter carrying the 3d camera because the trees in the distance are motionless. The camera continues on down through the field, accelerating in pace and sure enough gaining altitude, before moving high above the treeline then changing direction to reveal an astonishing rock formation straddling the Ardeche River. Herzog's unmistakable voice enters to introduce the film, while the camera continues to fly along capturing the landscape, as he proceeds to tell us about the discovery of the Chauvet cave, named for one of its discoverers who located it in 1994 and the remarkable discoveries found within.
Granted unprecedented access to the site which is closed and protected by the French ministry of culture, Herzog reveals to us an almost perfectly preserved cave sealed by a landslide from the outside world for over 20,000 years. The paintings located within; and the skeletal remains of long extinct animals, some dating as far back as 32,000 years, offer us a rare and entirely fascinating look at early human life.
There is a good mix between footage taken inside the cave, filmed with very tight restrictions which we are told about several times throughout the film; and interviews with various scientists and experts studying it. Also there are the expected bizarre diversions and speculations that are the trademark of a Herzog documentary. Posing sometimes wild but always stimulating philosophical questions to try to make a human connection to our Paleolithic ancestors through what he calls an impossible 'abyss of time'. That connection isn't hard to find, when we look in awe at the beautiful images and the countless stories they tell.
— Bonjour Tristesse