Over the weekend, we saw the 3D version of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog’s documentary about the pre-historic paintings in France’s heavily restricted Chauvet Cave. I really didn’t expect 3D to be so critical to my appreciation of the film, but it was. Those ancient artists brilliantly used the natural contours of the the cave in a way I don’t think a 2D presentation could do justice. This art is really a combination of drawing and sculpture. And to think, they did it by torch light! They didn’t even have frickin’ cellphones to light their way in the dark, all right?!
Another revelation for me was the work of cellist/soundtrack composer Ernst Reijseger. The most powerful moments in the film are narration-free mini symphonies of images and music. Reijseger’s compositions combine primimtive tribal sounds with modern experimental classical forms in ways I found alternately moving and mind blowing. The trailer below is the one I found that best showcases this synchronicity of sight and sound.
Herzog is his usual arch, nutty self, asking his interview subjects questions from way out in left field and proposing connections between the cave artists, the history of human spirituality and our modern world that don’t necessarily track, except for the fact that only he could think of them.
There’s also some camera movement wizardry that had me wondering how it was done, which Herzog demystifies in the closing credits. He does something similar in the self-reflexive closing shot of Aguirre Wrath of God. Bonus points to the reader who spots what I’m talking about.