It would not be a lie to say I am not good at being too critical of a film. If I dislike a film, it is usually because of some jarring shallowness contained in it; if I like it, it is usually because it shows some form of self-expression. Werner Herzog is already a man I greatly admire, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a film of his in 3-D. Cave of Forgotten Dreams was perhaps one of the first times that I exited a film and wanted to hunt down the director and thank him for creating it.
First things first – the 3-D. One cannot help be skeptical of something which was created as a gimmick and will be employed 7 or 8 times out of 10 as a gimmick. Yes, this is a Werner Herzog film, and Yes, it is in 3-D. And… yes! he not only pulls it off but he absolutely uses it to enhance the film. When asked about this decision, Herzog was heard to say something along the lines of “these paintings cannot be experienced in two dimensions, they need that extra dimension.” Sadly the technology is not perfect (it frustrates the eyes’ focal adjustment ability and is never quite light enough), but in this case, I agree entirely with Herzog’s choice.
With some context, this will become clear. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is basically Herzog being given permission by the French government (a rare honour which will likely not be repeated for a long time) to spend a few days filming the most ancient, delicate cave paintings known to man, created during the last Ice Age and twice as old as the next oldest set we have discovered. Using 3-D is Herzog’s acknowledgment of the enormity of a privilege he was granted by this, and his desire to share this experience with everyone else in the fullest capacity.
And the cave paintings are truly spectacular. The ones displayed show much more complexity, expression, and innovation than any others I have yet seen. They use different types of paints for shading; to add dimensions they utilize the shapes of the cavern walls; to create a feeling of movement, they give the subjects of the paintings (mostly animals, such as a mammoth, and bears) something like primitive motion blur. And the cave itself, the cave is covered in crystals preserving it all which formed over thousands of years. It’s a remarkable site.
For those Herzog fans, like myself, there are plenty of awesome Herzogian moments and sayings, showcasing his utterly unique and fascinating mind. And yes, there is a random lizard scene. See it!