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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

By AARON MESH

The new Werner Herzog documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, is comparatively thin on the cuckoo German’s trademark perversity—except when you consider that he has made a 3-D documentary about motionless drawings on rocks. They are, admittedly, very old drawings on very unique rocks: Sketched in charcoal on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in southern France, the 32,000-year-old paintings are the earliest ever found, preserved by a rockslide that sealed the artwork (and many bear bones) until 1994, when the cave was uncovered and immediately locked up again for preservation. Still, there are no flying dragons. You will have to settle for woolly rhinos, which doesn’t strike me as too painful a concession. Science, even at a remove, trumps fantasy. What is most endearing about the drawings is their suggestion that Paleolithic man, much like a tribe of elementary-school girls, dreamed mostly of horses. There are also some bears on the walls, some bulls, and a lot of rhinos. The images roll out from the shadows, rippling under headlamps—and suddenly the rationale for filming in 3-D makes perfect sense. This is the closest most of us will ever come to these paintings, and we should be able to gain as tactile an experience as possible.

 

Special Note

 Cinema 21.
 
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Friday, May 13, 2011
  • Critic's Score: 80
  • Watch the trailer
 

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