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DVD Review: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

November 8, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams – An Alliance Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: November 8th, 2011

Rated G

Running time: 90 minutes

Werner Herzog (dir.)

Werner Herzog (writer)

Based on an article titled First Impressions by Judith Thurman

Ernst Reijseger (music)

Werner Herzog as Himself (also Narrator)

Our reviews below:


Cave of Forgotten Dreams DVD Review 

By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

In 1994, scientists discovered a cave in Southern France that was home to beautifully realized cave drawings of animals that are said to have been created some 32 thousand years ago.  Directed and narrated by Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams takes a camera inside of these caves, giving us a rare view at the oldest known works of art ever created.

At times an almost overwhelming amount of information and philosophical background is shared by Herzog and those he interviews, discussing what these cave drawings could mean and where it places us in the grand scheme of existence.  This is a documentary that demands and deserves our attention.  But the slow and relaxing pace of the film allows the beautiful images and music to wash over us, in a way that makes for a sometimes hypnotizing experience.

The DVD includes no bonus material.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams DVD Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Named for its discoverer, Jean-Marie Chauvet, the Chauvet Cave was discovered on December 18th, 1994, and contains the oldest known cave paintings – dating back over thirty-thousand years.  Because of the way the cave was naturally sealed off by a rock slide ages ago, the drawings were preserved.

To keep this preservation, the cave remains sealed to spectators by a bank vault-type door, and only a small group of scientists and geologists are usually permitted inside.  In 2009, special permission was made for a small film crew led by director Werner Herzog to travel with the study group and film inside the cave – possibly some of the only images that will ever come out of there.  Captured on film are the intricate and life-like drawings of animals such as cave bears, lions, rhinos, horses, and deer.

What the completed film is, is a look inside this cave at these drawings that the majority of us will never get the opportunity to see in person.  Coupled with interviews from those studying the cave, we get a picture painted for us of how those who drew the images may have lived and what the cave may have been used for.  This will definitely not be a documentary for everyone.  Some of the shots near the beginning can be a little bit dizzying, but once inside the cave there is a lot of nice imagery to look at.  It is also quite slow moving at times – especially with its 97 minute running time.  Still, in particular for art students, or those interested in caves and ancient civilizations, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is interesting, beautiful, and well worth a look.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a beautiful film about the world’s oldest known paintings.  Discovered in 1994 at France’s Cauvet Cave, they date back as far as 30,000 BC.  Depicting accurate representations of numerous animals such as horses, bison, cave bears, and puma-like cave lions, these paintings show a glimpse of a world in which humans lived in harmony with nature.  This is contrasted by a final scene featuring a crocodile exhibit at a nuclear power plant jungle garden.  Here, the animals have become albino due to radiation exposure.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys art and the natural world.  The images of the cave paintings are beautiful, capturing the feel and movement of the animals depicted.  The film captures the shimmer of the crystalline cave structure, while a mysterious musical score plays in the background.  Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a unique film that captures what it means to be human.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is an exercise in patience.  This is a story that has taken years to unfold and filmmaker Werner Herzog does not allow its telling to be rushed.  Discovered in 1994, the Chauvet caves in Southern France are graced with 32,000 year old drawings of animals and humans on its walls.  Because of the delicate subterranean environment in the caves, Herzog and his team had to film the art within time and space constraints.  The result of his patient filmmaking process is breathtaking.

Narrated by Werner Herzog and presented with a backdrop of beautiful orchestral music the images of the cave art are allowed to wash over the viewer and be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.  The images are supported by interviews with cave art history experts and philosophical thoughts offered by Herzog himself.  The closing footage of the nuclear plant near the Chauvet caves site provides a thought-provoking contrast to the simplistically powerful cave drawings.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a beautiful film experience for those who appreciate natural beauty and art history set to a beautiful orchestral score.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

In 1994 three French explorers along the gorge of the Ardèche river (a Rhône tributary in the south of France) hiking the cave-rich cliffs feeling for telltale vents of air, discovered a cave sealed off by a rock slide for over 30 000 years, now known as La Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc (after one of the discoverers and the local land bridge). Inside they found bones and paintings of various animals, including horses, bison, rhinoceros, cave bears, lions, deer, and mammoths, all dating from the last ice age when 2.5 km of glaciers covered Europe, leaving dry land between Europe and Britain and a clear path along the Rhône valley to southern Germany. Both Neanderthals and modern humans inhabited these areas at that time but only the latter produced art, including sculptures and musical instruments along with paintings. To preserve the cave, a 60 cm wide metal walkway was installed and access has been restricted to researchers. Extensive photos and laser imaging have yielded a detailed three-dimensional computer model (analogous to a CAT scan) of the entire cave, and a replica theme park nearby will enable the public to harmlessly share the cave experience.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the documentary directed and narrated by Werner Herzog that opens up this amazing discovery to the world. Though originally released (and reportedly awesome) in 3D, the DVD we now have is still hauntingly beautiful. Extensive interviews with archeologists and other experts provide a rich insight into the images and the people that made them. Varying light levels and play of light and shadow over the paintings bring out their remarkable detail. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is admittedly not for everyone. Though the art itself is accessible, the approach is quite scholarly and the leisurely pace is mirrored by a musical score featuring low strings and modern harmonies that though beautiful felt like one long sarabande.


Consensus: Directed and narrated by Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams takes the audience on a beautifully filmed and sometimes hypnotizing journey into the oldest known cave drawings, hidden in Southern France.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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