Remember the days when the best part about
going to the theater to see a movie was watching the previews? Well now every time I sit through them, I have to contemplate my decision to go into the film industry. You'd think they would at least advertise decent movies in the screening of rogue director Werner Herzog's new documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Instead I had to watch clips of Jim Carrey dancing with CG penguins and Tom Hanks on a motorcycle. Worst of all, there is a new inspirational film coming out about a dolphin with no tail learning to swim. It's called Dolphin Tale. Now what self-respecting person would make such a horrible pun?
On the bright side, Herzog, one my personal favorites, continues to prove that the art of cinema is not yet extinct (and that 3D might not be all bad). He has strayed off course a few times, but I've always admired the intimacy and humility of Herzog's films. He has incredible passion for his subject matter. To make Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he acquired a permit to film in a location that was previously exclusive to very few archaeologists and art historians, the Chauvet Cave in southern France. This cave contains the oldest cave art yet discovered, dating as far back as 30,000 BC.
While I still don't enjoy watching a movie through badly fitting plastic glasses, this is probably the most thoughtful use of 3D I've seen in any feature film. Herzog wants to show us not a representation of the cave, but the reality of the cave and the dynamism of the paintings. The sight of the paintings, mineral formations, and ancient bones were all breathtaking to say the least. It is ironic that I get more emotional watching crude, flat charcoal paintings than from a sappy tearjerker, but the 3D really captured the expressiveness in the eyes of the animals, and drew a bridge between civilizations tens of thousands of years apart. This is by far the most powerful idea brought about by the film.
In a postscript to Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog contrasts modern man and the ancient civilizations that produced the art in the Chauvet Cave by showing us a nearby nuclear power plant. The water that is used to cool the reactors is diverted, creating a a contained warm-water tropical environment. He spends an especially long time filming a few albino alligators living in this biodome. While I didn't really get his metaphor comparing these alligators to man, this sequence was so charmingly Herzog that I couldn't help but love it.
If you can get yourself to the nearest theater that is showing this film in 3D, I would highly recommend it. Herzog aced it with Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a truly unique cinematic experience.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars