Saturday, December 31, 2011

Movie Review: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Nature's Inherent Beauty 

      Werner Herzog, an enigmatic visionary in an obsessive search for truth and meaning, is responsible for some of the most provocative, ambitious, and enrapturing documentaries/films in cinema's history: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser represent some of his finest work. His latest documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, could have been a painstaking dissection detailing the history of crayons. I would have been captivated. But Forgotten Dreams, fleeing the doldrums of industry, actually documents something extraordinary: Mysteries of France's Chauvet Cave, a clandestine site that houses the oldest-known paintings in the world.
      Accompanied by paleontologists, archeologists, and art historians, the intrepid Herzog, narrating in his usual, sanguine fashion and employing an arsenal of 3-D cameras, guides us through Chauvet's cavernous expanse, unearthing beautiful images, which date back some 20,000 years, and reminding us all of a basic tenet of humanity: Beauty constantly surrounds us. The claustrophobic setting provides a magnificent, condensed arena from which the resourceful Herzog is able to capture the intricate artwork in its naked, unspoiled state; his studied, deliberate 3-D exploration underscores the natural contours of the walls, providing a glimpse into this rare world of distinct artifacts. 
      Fulfilling the requirements for what seems like a Lifetime Achievement Award, the prolific Herzog, perhaps emboldened by the limited access he received to the historic site, constructs his documentary as a celebration of nature's ethereal beauty, specifically, to serve as a reminder of mankind's innate connection to her. Francois Truffaut, a pivotal founder of the French New Wave, hailed Herzog "the most important film director alive." Cave of Forgotten Dreams makes Truffaut's bold claim seem prescient. There is no debate: Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the best documentary of 2011.

9 out of 10 

***** Like 50/50, you're not going to be shocked by inclusion of Cave of Forgotten Dreams in my Top Ten Movies of 2011 List. As I began formulating a compendium of the year's best films, I decided it would be prudent to spotlight their novel beauty by authoring a micro review; micro, I emphasize, because historically my reviews tend to exceed 1000 words.  


  1. This really is a stellar picture. I am fascinated with cave paintings and this just took my breath away. I could watch again and again.

  2. Just swinging by to wish you and yours a very happy new year.

    Great blog you've got here :)

  3. I can't wait to watch a documentary not about politics, economics or war. I love history!

  4. Herzog is so interesting - he's not a one-note filmmaker - although his obsession with others' obsessions are obvious - and here's a gorgeous documentary made - as junebug points out - not to beat the viewer over the head with current events and socio-politico-whateverico - but simply to show the world art that we would otherwise never get to see. Bravo, Werner Herzog! And bravo, Matthew Vanacore! Well chosen, as usual!

  5. Great review, it looks and sounds amazing. I'm always up for a great documentary plus I love just about anything within the realm of art and/or the history of art so this is perfect.

  6. I'm really excited, Herzog is a genuine auteur. We are lucky to be around to watch him work.