Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (documentary)

Cave Lions in Chauvet Cave
Last night I watched Werner Herzog's documentary film "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which I really enjoyed. It's about the Chauvet Cave in southern France, which was discovered in 1994. The cave contains remarkable rock paintings dating back 30 to 40,000 years, making them the oldest art ever discovered. The documentary is unusual in that it takes a very relaxed approach unlike a National Geographic style doco with detailed descriptions and interviews. Here the archaeologists and scientists seem unscripted and more subjective and personal than usual. The cave and it's beautiful drawings are often left to speak for themselves.
    The drawings are simply stunning - animals are perfectly captured with strong, clear lines, and bold shading. But these aren't simple representations, the animals are fluid, moving, and alive. If you were told these came from the sketch book of a master like Leonardo or Picasso you wouldn't be surprised. However, you are surprised, even awestruck, because we know they were painted by a succession of talented artists over 30,000 years ago. At the end of the film a large section is devoted to the camera simply moving around the cave and focusing on different paintings in stunning detail.
    Highly recommended viewing, though I'm not sure the very final scene with the albino crocodiles really worked.