Granted unprecedented access to the oldest artworks on Earth, Herzog finds ample fuel for favourite themes- man amongst the elements, inhospitable landscapes and the odd close-up of a particularly photogenic reptile. The Chauvet Cave is explored, first from the outside with an extraordinary crane shot soaring along the mountain face, then later by handheld cameras inside the cave’s clammy tunnels, severely restricted not only by low ceilings and narrow walkways, but by the fact that a even one step out of place, or the condensation of a single breath, might alter the cave’s sensitive environment. Queasy and hypnotic in equal measure, the 3D camerawork is at times irritating, another gratuitous Herzog challenge, but it does make an event of what might otherwise be just a rather idiosyncratic nature film. Art becomes nature becomes art again, in a cycle spanning 32,000 years yet newly experimental every time. Science and speculation sit side-by-side, and the Platonic cave becomes a ‘landscape of the mind’, a testing ground for spirituality and ritual. Informative, yet brimming over with unanswerable questions (‘we will never know’, Herzog opines in his soft, umlaut-ed voice), Cave of Forgotten Dreams is glittering, rare and slow-moving as a stalactite.
Director: Werner Herzog
Talent: Bison, Oxen, Homo Sapiens Sapiens
Release Date: March 25th
Originally published in Totally Dublin