Sunday, 23 June 2013

Documentary Sunday - Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Sunday's are lazy, so why not take the time to sit down, relax and open your mind to exciting new worlds of knowledge, intrigue and opinions.

Werner Herzog is a curious man. He's made some of the most visually and thematically unique movies of the century, he's been involved in some of the most notorious director/cast conflicts ever recorded and he's made some of the most compelling documentaries about menial subjects ever committed to film. The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is one of them.

Herzog and his crew have been granted exclusive access to the Chauvet caves in France, a pristinely kept prehistoric site that features some of the oldest and most beautiful examples of early-human paintings ever seen by the modern man (and not open to the public). And that's all it is. A brief tour of the caves, some interviews with the archaeologists and historians involved and a brief existential look at our past and future. In any other hands this would have been a complete borefest, something a primary school would have slung on the TV to pass an hour. Herzog somehow turns it into a truly captivating experience that explores pretty much all the realms of the senses.

Each shot of the cave is stunning, especially seeing as how their equipment was restricted based on weight and size, and they really manage to capture the awe-inspiring detail of these cave drawings. Honestly, you have never seen paintings like these before. Each scene drifts on, perfectly narrated by the German auteur himself, as he examines the reasons behind why people may have left their mark behind in the first place and looks at the tragedies of never knowing exactly why.

The entire documentary is interlaced with baroque music, almost religious in theme (ironic given Herzog's strong atheist claims) but it fits the mood perfectly and actually enhances how mind-blowing each piece of art is. Normally you use music to transition a scene, or just add background noise but here is actually fuels the experience and allows Herzog's calm, hypnotic (probably slightly sinister) voice to completely carry you away with it. So calm perhaps that it may actually send you to sleep.

Who Does it Appeal To?
Mainly people with a strong interest in prehistoric artwork or just history in general however I would strongly recommend anyone to check this out if you get the chance. The documentary really manages to show the best advantages of working with history and I can easily see it inspiring people to investigate the issue further, perhaps even checking out some caves in real life too. Many will find the actual presentation boring (it's just Herzog's style) but the actual meat inside is well worth your attention.

What to Take Away From It?
The interviews add depth to the knowledge obtained since the site was first discovered, so there is a history lesson involved somewhere but mostly it's just to sit back and observe as you are taken on one of the oldest ever journey's mankind has ever been involved with.

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