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Must See
Cave of Forgotten Dreams


Once in a while, directors with true vision are able to take subjects that would confound an ordinary film-maker and create visceral, transcendent works of art. All films are not necessarily 'works of art', film is primarily a medium of entertainment, but there are individuals who have been able to achieve both aims: creating exceptional ground-breaking, captivating cinema that can also be called art.

Werner Herzog, the eccentric, poetic, German film-maker who insists on narrating all his documentaries in his own distinctly accented English has always gone out of his way to choose the most difficult and outlandish subjects. He has worked with a man obsessed with grizzly bears, a rocket scientist who hovers over the rain-forest in a hot air balloon, and writers and adventurers who live and work in Antarctica.

Now, with Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he chooses to document the millennia-old paintings found in the Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche region of France. The only problem was that the skeleton film crew were only allowed access for a few hours each day over the course of a week. Every documentary maker knows the absurd proportion of footage shot to the actual footage that ends up in the 90 odd minutes that is a feature length documentary. To be allowed to film only a few hours can be catastrophic to the viability of a film. Additionally, the cave being a fragile and compact environment meant that the crew often could not duck out of the shots and were forced to use only the most rudimentary equipment in a dark and hard to manoeuvre environment.

Despite these challenges Herzog, as usual, has made an amazing film. The cave paintings of Chauvet are dramatic in themselves, but Herzog has somehow turned his disadvantage into advantages with his narration, which is full of philosophical wonder at the epic gap in our knowledge between us and the Cro-magnons who painted these powerful renderings of lions, bulls, pre-historic wooly rhinos in the haunting, dark interior of the cave. Herzog uses the camera to drift and wander around the cave for long minutes allowing us to wonder and marvel at the paintings which are underscored by orchestral music that is both melodic and evocative. Finally, the other exceptional, aspect of this film is that Herzog chose to film it in 3-D.

Another film-maker might not have had the patience or the experience to succeed with this kind of technology in such an environment, but Herzog and his team are able to create a breathtaking film that allows the viewers to feel like they are in this most mysterious of caves themselves.


Oddly enough, yet another German film-maker of the same era, Wim Wenders, has also created a fantastic documentary, also in 3-D, about the famous choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch. In Pina, Wenders uses the camera in a fluid floating manner that allows the dancers a measure of freedom of movement that is impossible with a more static camera. Bausch's amazing pieces come to life in this film that, along with Herzog's, push the boundaries of what we have come to accept as conventional cinema. Movies are still young, a little over a century old, and they entertain people young and old, the world over. Once in a while though, a few pioneers like James Cameron (with Avatar), Herzog, and Wenders take a few chances and set new standards that make one gasp at the almost magical potential of cinema.

1. nepali hypocrite


 you missed out mentioning klaus kinski, the most bizarre of herzog's creatures/subjects. and by extension, the unforgettable aguirre, the wrath of god.

2. sag
I always felt :Herzog is full of himself. I couldn't stand his grizzly bear-killing-stupid kid movie. Also his movie about search for the loch ness monster is just as bad. Well, may be that is just me...

3. Saundarya Thapa
Grizzly Man was made after the fact of Timothy Treadwell's death. It features a lot of footage shot by Treadwell himself and is by no means, a "stupid kid movie." I would suggest a second watch. In other news, great reviews - I look forward to watching them both!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)