I just saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams. This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in the last few years. Unfortunately I didn’t see it in 3D, because I think in this case it would actually have been an improvement instead of a gimmick. Because I’m lethargic by nature, I’m going to let you read somebody else’s synopsis below. But really, go see this one, it’s amazing. It is bound to send “historical sensation” chills down your spine. If this doesn’t get you interested in history (even though it deals with a prehsitoric topic) then nothing does.
Somewhere around 32,000 years ago, a man entered a cave, dipped his hand in color, and pressed it against a wall. He did this again and again, his crooked little finger acting as his signature, until the wall was covered with handprints.
Why did he do this? Was he discovering the possibilities of art? Whatever he understood, his efforts tell us something particular about him, preserving something personal and true, a testimony to generations he never saw or imagined.
In the passages around the handprints, the walls are alive with drawings. Did the same man draw them? Did his handprints inspire others to make images that told more engaging stories?
In Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the great filmmaker Werner Herzog leads us on a tour of the Chauvet Cave in southern France to see up close what scientists believe is the oldest art gallery ever discovered. The art on these walls may well be twice as ancient as the next-oldest images we know.
The mysteries illuminated by their “torches” abound. Why is there no discernible change in the artistic style between the oldest images and those that were painted 2,000 years later on the same walls? Do scratches made by bear claws indicate that men and bears shared the caves? Is the large cave that contains a mysterious skull some kind of ceremony chamber? Some of the animals are drawn with many legs. Was this to depict them at a full run, like an early form of animation?
In their detail, the illustrations convey truths about a lost world. In their lack of explanation, they are mysterious. In their beauty, they speak of the unique powers of the human imagination to apprehend more than mere matter.