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Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D(2010)
Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting.
For more about Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D and the Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray release, see Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Narrator: Werner Herzog
Director: Werner Herzog
» See full cast & crew
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray Review
Lions, rhinos, and bears…oh my!
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 30, 2011
Like it or not, 3D has taken over the multiplex and is increasingly making its way into home theaters. At its worst, it's a gimmicky way to get movie watchers to plop down extra cash for a murky, dim, sometimes even nauseating experience. At best, it's…well, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Teutonic cinema shaman Werner Herzog's latest documentary, which presents the most integral, holistic use of 3D in a film yet. The problem with many 3D movies is that, aside from the temporary wow-factor, the extra dimensionality doesn't really feel necessary. But in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the 3D presentation is absolutely essential, used to give us a nearly tangible feel for Herzog's subject matter—the rock walls of the Chauvet Cave in southern France.
Or, more precisely, what's on those walls—stunning Paleolithic paintings that date back over 30,000 years, twice as old as any previously found cave art. Though the paintings constitute one of the most significant cultural finds of all time, few will ever set eyes upon them, as even the simple act of breathing inside the cave could cause mold spores to grow and cover the walls. Since its discovery in 1994, the cave—which was sealed off 20,000 years ago by an avalanche—has been on literal lockdown, with small teams of scientists only permitted inside for a few weeks each year. And that's where Mr. Herzog comes in, graciously bringing us along on a guided tour of humanity's oldest art gallery.
Herzog will probably be best remembered for his string of baroquely operatic fictional films starring the wild-eyed, tantrum-throwing Klaus Kinski— including Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God—but he is without question one of the most versatile and prolific of living filmmakers. It's hard to think of another director who could so effortlessly transition between Grizzly Man and Rescue Dawn, Encounters at the End of the World and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, drastically different films that—at the same time —are all unmistakably his.
Herzog's particular talent for documentaries is in finding subjects that are odd, yes, but expressively human, almost spiritual in a completely non-religious, devotedly scientific way. In looking at the paintings in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he doubts we'll ever be able to truly "understand the vision of the artists through such an abyss of time," but he presents the artwork they left behind as some of the earliest signs we have of the awakening of the "modern human soul." The scale of time is nearly unimaginable, and inherently humbling. The oldest paintings in the cave are 32,000 years old, but there are others inside made up to 5,000 years later, a span nearly as long as all of recorded history. It makes today's cycle of up-to-the-second Twitter updates and Facebook news feeds seem completely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
The paintings themselves are strikingly beautiful—much more accomplished than what you'd expect from primitive humans. Male and female lions are drawn proportionally and anatomically correct. Rhinos square off to battle, heads lowered and eyes visibly angry. Horses gallop across a landscape made of bulging rock, their mouths opened in almost audible whinnies. One bison is even drawn with eight legs to suggest motion, a nascent form of animation that Herzog—in his iconic Bavarian baritone—refers to as "proto-cinema." In 3D, every crack, recession, and protuberance of the rock face is dimensionally visible, allowing us to see exactly how these ancient artists utilized the contours of the cave wall to add depth and movement to their tableaus.
Aside from a single scrawled image of a woman's legs and pubic triangle—being seemingly embraced by a bison, no less—there are no depictions of humans inside the Chauvet cave. There are, however, poignant reminders that the cave was visited by actual individuals. Scrapes of charcoal reveal where torches were scratched on the wall to rekindle the embers. A child's footprints are found next to those of a wolf, and Herzog wonders about three possibilities: 1.) the boy was hunted, 2.) the boy and the wolf were friends, or 3.) the prints were made thousands of years apart. Upon entering the cave, one of the first sights is an enormous boulder covered in vivid ochre handprints. From the size and placement— and the presence of a slightly crooked pinky finger—scientists can tell these were made by a single human man who stood just under six feet tall. We can never know why he was compelled to press his palm repeatedly up against this rock, but the reminder that one man made these marks—one man who lived and breathed and presumably broke his pinky at some point in distant history—is absolutely mind-blowing. It's also baffling to think that while Homo Sapiens were etching out intricate line drawings inside the Chauvet cave, their evolutionary rivals, the Neanderthals—who left no evidence of pictorial art—were still roaming through Europe, soon to die out.
In typical Herzog fashion, the film is populated with sometimes kooky, sometimes profound, but always stranger-than-fiction characters. We meet an Einstein look-a-like who gives us a lesson in spear-throwing, and a master perfumer who sniffs the countryside, smelling for drafts that might indicate the presence of undiscovered caves. There's a circus performer-turned-scientist who had vivid dreams of lions after spending five days in Chauvet, and an "experimental archeologist" who—I kid you not—dresses in reindeer pelts and plays "The Star-Spangled Banner" on a reproduction of a Paleolithic flute made from the arm-bone of a badger. Throughout, Herzog gives his characteristically terse-but-poetic narration, posing unanswerable questions about existence. A strange post script coda tries a bit too hard to compare modern humans with the "mutant albino crocodiles" that—believe it or not—live in a nuclear-powered greenhouse "twenty miles, as the crow flies" from Chauvet, but this is perhaps the only flaw in a monumentally beautiful film about the mysteries of time and humanity. We're left wondering—what sparked that fire of creative consciousness in our ancestors?
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cave of Forgotten Dreams may be the best conceptual use of 3D in a film recently, but it's far from the best implementation. When he first ventured into the cave, Herzog and his crew had only a small rig consisting of two non-pro HD cameras quite literally gaffer-taped together to create a stereoscopic view. Even on their later excursions, where they used more professional 2K cameras, they had to adjust the distance between the two lenses on the fly and film only by the light of heatless LED panels. Working under such restrictive conditions, there was no time for precision, so alignment issues and rolling shutter problems had to be fixed frame-by-frame in post-production. Still, remnants of the by-the-seat-of-their-pants filming process remain. Noise is extremely heavy during the early portions of the film, as the cameras were trying to compensate for the low lighting conditions, and you'll notice some strong crosstalk in the 3D image, which can be distracting—even disorienting—during shots that have lots of hanging stalactites or swaying tree branches. Clarity is mixed. There are some shots and sequences that look downright blurry, but others that are fantastically sharp, allowing us to make out the textures of the rock walls. I did watch the film in the theater earlier this year, and I can at least say that the 3D Blu-ray presentation accurately matches what I remember seeing, warts and all. But try not to let those warts distract you. Cave of Forgotten Dreams should definitely be watched in 3D, as the extra depth gives a truer vision of what the paintings actually look like. The disc also includes the 2D version of the film, which looks fine but lacks the dimensional impact.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The documentary's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track also shows occasional signs of the quick-and-dirty filming process, but there's nothing overtly distracting here. While scientists recorded on location in the caves can sound somewhat muffled at times, the interviews set elsewhere are clean and distortion-free. Herzog's own sonorous voice—which I could listen to for days—is also clear and balanced. The main allure of this mix, though, is frequent Herzog collaborator Ernst Reijseger's fantastic score, which mixes floating voices, rich cello, and darting flute sounds. The music is spread throughout all 5.1 channels and is very easy on the ears. The disc includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of the first major documentaries to use 3D, and one of the first films in general to truly exploit the possibilities of 3D, Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams is an awe-inspiring journey back to the dawn of human creativity and easily one of my favorite films of 2011. The quality of the 3D image on this Blu-ray disc may not thrill you—this is no Avatar—but if there's any humanity inside you whatsoever you'll be bowled over by the subject matter. This is transcendent documentary filmmaking. Highly recommended.
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Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cave of Forgotten Dreams Blu-ray - September 5, 2011
In an early announcement to retailers, MPI Home Video has indicated plans to release Cave of Forgotten Dreams on Blu-ray. The newest documentary from Werner Herzog (Encounters at the End of the World) finds the director studying the legendary Chauvet Cave in southern ...
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