Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog "Rescue Dawn," "Aguirre, Wrath of God" and "Grizzly Man" just gets stranger and stranger..... As a director, he certainly knows his stuff. As a writer, there were moments during this documentary when the screening audience laughed out loud at his purple prose. But as a narrator, he was wonderful: clear, articulate and informative.

The cave of the title (full title: "Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams") is one discovered in 1994 by a fellow named Chauvet in France; it is carefully controlled to avoid the damage caused by humid (human) exhalations that recently closed the more famous Lascaux caves which had caused such a sensation in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Excessive moisture from our lungs upsets the delicate balance in these living caves. I learned about that when I went through the airlock to Arizona's Kartchner Caverns in recent years. As a result, only a very limited number of people are allowed into Chauvet Cave at one time and then only for a limited number of minutes.

The paintings themselves have been carbon dated to approximately 35,000 years and have been untouched all this time. Animal bones and tracks that were there at the time of the avalanche that closed the cave are covered by a mineral growth that takes many millennia to form. We see pictures of mammoths, lions, and horses, plus bear and bison. I found the two most memorable to be two rhinos engaged in a fierce battle and a quartet of what appeared to me as Przewalski ("Sha val ski") horses. (Domestic horses are theorized to have descended from this stock.)

Three elements should be discussed:

1. This movie is in 3D; to me the benefits for the extra ticket price are marginal.
2. The musical score evidently is someone's idea of prehistoric: atonal and ultimately annoying.
3. We can only scan the paintings so many times. The slow panning over and over and over finally becomes wearisome. I longed for my remote so I could fast forward.

This is an fascinating documentary for people interested in paleontology and archeology. Kudos to the French for learning from their past mistakes with Lascaux. I was happy to see the meticulous care taken for the preservation of this priceless treasure.