Film Review: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams [dir: Werner Herzog; 2010]

There's a transcendent scene in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient where Naveen Andrews hoists Juliette Binoche up to the ceiling of an abbey so that she can take a closer look at some old frescoes. The flare she's holding for illumination wraps her in smoke. The harness in which she sits swings from side to side. Gabriel Yared's music cascades from high to low and back up again. As Binoche gazes through the mist, catching glimpses of various faces, she realises that she's looking at much more than ancient paint: she's looking at history. And history's looking at her, making her understand that she's part of the artwork too, that one day, the memory of her will be as unreachable and tantalising as the memory of the figures in the paintings. The same sense of the connections between us and the past runs through Werner Herzog's remarkable Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. Shot in giddy 3D (for once, the format is well utilised) it's essentially a showcase of the 32,000 year old (!) drawings on the walls of the Chauvet caves in France, interspersed with contributions from archaeologists, albino crocodiles, a perfumer and, of course, Herzog himself. With his world-weary Bavarian tones - and the help of Ernst Reijseger's score - the director uses the caves as a springboard from which to launch a breathtaking meditation on time, change and the limits of perception. Unique and beautiful.


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