Monday, November 12, 2012

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

Cellist Ernst Reijseger, swaddles Herzog’s documentary in an ethereal & mesmeric score, allowing the director’s typically evocative commentary to drift up effortlessly, out from the very caves and crevices that he films with such awe and precision.  Reijseger’s score is important, because, as with most of Herzog’s documentaries, the atmosphere that Herzog evokes invariably incubates the impressions that his subject matter generates, and Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc must have been something close to Herzog’s ideal subject matter. 20,000 years in the making and virtually unexposed to mankind, these caves are steeped in the accumulated mystery of millennia, still barely understood and filled to bursting with meaning and anthropological ramification. Herzog loves it to be big, overwhelming, heavy and difficult to pin down. Empiricism is not his forte; rather, he’s more likely to be found extrapolating the meaning of mankind’s existence through the erratic behavior of a penguin on an empty ice shelf in Antarctica [Encounters at the End of the World] or a moonwalker dancing on the edge of a cliff beside a waterfall in Guyana [The White Diamond].

No one makes a documentary quite like Herzog does. The spaces that he cordons off for the purposes of spontaneity and discovery are almost unprecedented in documentary filmmaking, and in the hands of a less adept director such elliptical methods would certainly result in a travesty of imprecision and disinformation. But Herzog invariably pulls it off. Certainly the result can border on the bizarre; but the cave paintings and skulls, the stalagmites reverberating with the tapping splash of distant, dripping water, the obsessive scientists and curious local mystics—both of whom he treats equally and respectfully—these are all the diverse components of exceedingly bizarre matters, and so his methodology seems somehow fitting.


Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Werner Herzog, Dominique Baffier, Jean Clottes, Jean-Michel Geneste, Carole Fritz, Gilles Tosello, Michel Philippe, Julien Monney, Nicholas Conard, Charles Fathy

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