Saturday, May 14, 2011

"The Cave of Forgotten Dreams"

Caves, caves, caves... in Columbus, Ohio with Amelia, Drew, and Maura.


Olafur Eliasson, The Caves Series: Looking Out, 1998


Olafur Eliasson, The Caves Series: Looking In, 1998

There are three movies I have been looking forward to this summer (so much so that I drove to Columbus, Ohio yesterday to see one of them). Werner Herzog's The Cave of Forgotten Dreams was first on the list (next up Terrence Malick's Tree of Life and Miranda July's The Future):



I have been enamored by these caves since I first read this article in the New Yorker in 2008. "...the End Chamber, a spectacular vaulted space that contains more than a third of the cave’s etchings and paintings—a few in ochre, most in charcoal, and all meticulously composed. A great frieze covers the back left wall: a pride of lions with Pointillist whiskers seems to be hunting a herd of bison, which appear to have stampeded a troop of rhinos, one of which looks as if it had fallen into, or is climbing out of, a cavity in the rock. As at many sites, the scratches made by a standing bear have been overlaid with a palimpsest of signs or drawings, and one has to wonder if cave art didn’t begin with a recognition that bear claws were an expressive tool for engraving a record—poignant and indelible—of a stressed creature’s passage through the dark."

From the New York Times movie review: "The cave was discovered in December 1994 by three French cavers, Jean-Marie Chauvet, √Čliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire. Following an air current coming from the cliff, they dug and crawled their way into the cave, which had been sealed tight for some 20,000 years. After finally making their way to an enormous chamber, Ms. Deschamps held up her lamp and, seeing an image of a mammoth, cried out, “They were here,” a glorious moment of discovery that closed the distance between our lost human past and our present."

It was my first experience with 3-D and there were parts of it I really enjoyed but many I didn't. Hand held cameras, especially used while walking, are enough to make me motion sick for days and in 3-D, it was a very difficult experience. I would close my eyes for a little bit as I couldn't look away due to the the glasses and open them ten minutes later realizing I had fallen asleep.

3-D was at its best when the camera moved slowly over the drawings in the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc - truly some of the most magnificent artwork I've ever seen filmed. It is great to see this technology used with something artistic and I hope this is the beginning of many more serious 3-D movies to come.

Highlights of Herzog's film include: evidence of cave bears and the calcite deposits covering their vertebrae; the characters Herzog always manages to find - a circus juggler turned archaeologist, an "experimental archaeologist" dressed in a reindeer outfit on a seemingly warm day who plays a flute made of a vulture bone, a master perfumer who sniffs the earth looking for cave openings; and the couple holding the photograph in the cave after Herzog orders everyone to be silent.

Afterward, there was pizza (shockingly a piece still exists in my fridge over 24 hours later!) and the best ice cream ever and the long drive home. I did manage to work one hour today too. Thursday was indeed my weekend.

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