Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Synopsis: In 1994, a group of scientists discovered a cave in Southern France perfectly preserved for over 20,000 years and containing the earliest known human paintings. Knowing the cultural significance that the Chauvet Cave holds, the French government immediately cut-off all access to it, save a few archaeologists and paleontologists. But documentary filmmaker, Werner Herzog, has been given limited access, and now we get to go inside examining beautiful artwork created by our ancient ancestors around 32,000 years ago. He asks questions to various historians and scientists about what these humans would have been like and trying to build a bridge from the past to the present.
Director(s): Werner Herzog
Production: IFC Films
  11 wins & 20 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.4
Metacritic:
86
Rotten Tomatoes:
96%
G
Year:
2010
90 min
$5,234,785
Website
193 Views

This is

the Ardche River

in southern France.

Less than a quarter of a mile

from here,

three explorers set out

a few days before Christmas

in 1994.

They came along this way.

They were seeking drafts of air

emanating from the ground,

which would point

to the presence of caves.

Eventually, they sensed

a subtle airflow

and began clearing away rocks,

revealing a narrow shaft

into the cliff.

It was so narrow

that a person could barely

squeeze through it.

They descended

into the unknown.

They were about to make

one of the greatest discoveries

in the history

of human culture.

At first,

the cave did not appear

to contain anything special,

aside from being

particularly beautiful.

But then deep inside,

they found this.

It would turn out

that this cave was pristine.

It had been perfectly sealed

for tens of thousands of years.

It contained by far

the oldest cave paintings,

dating back

some 32,000 years.

In fact, they are the oldest

paintings ever discovered,

more than twice as old

as any other.

In honor of its leading

discoverer, Jean-Marie Chauvet,

the cave now bears the name

Chauvet Cave.

This is the road

in the Ardche Gorge

leading to the cave.

It is early spring.

We have been given

an unprecedented endorsement

by the French

Ministry of Culture

to film inside the cave.

From the first day

of its discovery,

the importance of the cave

was immediately recognized,

and access was shut off

categorically.

Only a small group of

scientists is allowed to enter.

They are archaeologists,

art historians,

paleontologists,

and geologists, among others.

They are here to perform

their studies together

during a few short weeks

at the end of March

and the beginning of April.

This is one of the rare times

anyone, with the exception

of two guards,

is allowed inside the cave.

The cave is like a frozen flash

of a moment in time.

The reason

for its pristine condition

is this rock face.

Some 20,000 years ago,

it came tumbling down

in a massive rock slide,

sealing off the original

entrance to the cave

and creating

a perfect time capsule.

A wooden walkway leads to

the entrance of Chauvet Cave.

The narrow tunnel through which

the discoverers crawled

has been widened

and locked

with a massive steel door

like a bank vault.

Once we pass through this door,

it will be locked behind us

so as not to compromise

the delicate climate inside.

For this, our first exploration

into the cave,

we are using a tiny,

nonprofessional camera rig.

In this first narrow

holding room,

we are fitted

with sterile boots

and given safety instructions.

We have this, okay.

Once you've set this

on the rope,

you don't touch it.

Jean Clottes

was the first scientist

to inspect the cave

a few days after its discovery.

For five years,

until his retirement,

he served as head

of the scientific team.

Our guide leads us

down a first sloping tunnel,

which ends in a vertical drop

to the cave floor.

Since our film crew

has been limited

to a maximum of four,

we must all perform

technical tasks.

In addition,

our time in the cave

has been severely restricted.

And I will take one light

as well.

So it's five past 3:00.

We have one hour.

Apart from time constrictions,

we are not allowed

to touch anything in the cave

or ever step off

the two-foot-wide walkway.

We can use only three

flat cold light panels

powered by battery belts.

- You see how,

when they made the passageways,

they protected

the stalagmites.

It's a nice touch.

Inevitably,

moving along in single file,

the film crew

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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog (German: [ˈvɛɐ̯nɐ ˈhɛɐ̯tsoːk]; born 5 September 1942) is a German screenwriter, film director, author, actor, and opera director. Herzog is a figure of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Schröter, and Wim Wenders. Herzog's films often feature ambitious protagonists with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who are in conflict with nature.French filmmaker François Truffaut once called Herzog "the most important film director alive." American film critic Roger Ebert said that Herzog "has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons, or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular." He was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2009. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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