It is not often that a film leaves me in a state of real awe, not just about the filmmaker’s ability, but also about the subject of the movie.
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams excelled all expectations in leaving me in a awe-struck, dream-like haze for days afterwards. In fact, even weeks after I first saw the film, whenever I think about it, I am still easily drawn into a state of wonder.
It is such a simple premise. In 1994 some cavers found what they were sure should exist, a large cave inside the limestone cliffs in southern France. Gleefully, they scrambled in, only to be drawn up short but something they had never expected – the cave walls were covered with fantastic prehistoric paintings. They turned out to be the oldest known in the whole world, dating back to 30,000 years ago, and since the cave system is so extensive, it was literally an historic find.
Named after the caver Jean-Marie Chauvet, the Chauvet caves are strictly guarded, and are only open to scientists for a few days a year. The condensation from visitors'breath and modern lights can destroy cave paintings, so the French authorities rigidly control entrance. So it is a miracle that veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog and his small team were allowed to accompany a short expedition by archaeologists into the caves.
The stunningly beautiful art is revealed slowly and lovingly in the resulting film, with flickering lights such as our ancestors might have known. It is a powerful, moving film, and my only concern is that with the rubbish retail display equiptment some DVD rental shops have, an art-house film such as this might never reach a wide audience, although it deserves the attention of us all.
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