Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Whilst Werner Herzog’s recent output on the narrative front has been patchy (for every Bad Lieutenant there’s been a Rescue Dawn) his documentary filmmaking has been unparalleled. Herzog has secured for himself a niche in making creative documentaries that actually tell you nothing about the subject matter. What did I learn about grizzly bears from Grizzly Man? What did I learn about Antarctica from Encounters at the End of the World? And, what do I now know about the Chauvet Caves having watched his latest mini-epic Cave of Forgotten Dreams?
The answer’s ‘not much’, but that’s just the way Herzog wants it. Since their discovery in 1994 more people have been to the summit of Everest than have been inside these caves and it’s this mystery and exclusivity that Herzog loves to play with. This is his first film in 3D but, rather than making a 3D movie, he’s made the same elliptical, puzzling movie that he would have made if he’d been shooting on Super 8. In my opinion this is the first film since Avatar (and I didn’t much like that film) to use 3D to its advantage rather than letting itself be dragged around by it.
As with watching Shakespeare in the theatre there will inevitably be people in any screening of Cave of Forgotten Dreams who spend the entire movie tittering away just to prove that they ‘know Herzog’ and ‘get the joke’. Once these people have been ignored, and if you can force yourself not to chuckle at some of the narrator’s more outrageous metaphorical propositions, then you’ve got one heck of an interest documentary. The focus here is on the psychology that was present in the caves 30,000 years ago and Herzog goes about dissembling that in the same way that he worked his magic on the crazy logic of Timothy Treadwell or the maniacal genius of Klaus Kinski.
Gorgeous and operatic; Cave of Forgotten Dreams is another feather in the cap of the world’s most interesting documentary maker.