Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" - A Film by Werner Herzog

The sign on the box office window read "No Refunds." Neither Sue, nor I, had ever seen such a sign at a movie theater before, and so we thought nothing of it. But that was before we saw this film. You know how when people come out of a movie and they are usually talking to one another abut the film they have just seen? Not this one. And it wasn't the silence borne of having been awed by the film - it was the silence that comes with the sudden realization that you saw the sign, and went in anyway.

A more pretentious and self aggrandizing film cannot be imagined. One of the most comical moments in the film, and remember, this was a documentary, not a comedy, came when the audience is asked, along with the film crew, to "experience the silence of the cave. Who knows, you may even hear the sound of your own heart beating."

I was really excited at this prospect - we never hear true silence, and the caves were beautiful, so I sat back to really feel the silence of the caves. Then it happened, slowly a thumping sound, growing louder and louder, imitating the beating of a human heart, and then leading into a musical interlude as the cameras panned the cave, took over the entire theater. So much for the silence of the caves experience!

Next came the former circus juggler, now a scientist, who talks of having seen cave paintings in other parts of the world. He describes how the local indigenous peoples "retouch" the paintings to keep them fresh, and avoid their fading. He states that the hands of these men are touched by the spirit of the cave when they paint, so in essence it is not their hands, therefore they are not ruining the original work, merely keeping it alive. I can buy that. I even like the idea.

Then we return to the caves in France, which are shuttered with a steel door. Inside the caves, which are 32,ooo years old, it is a strict no touch policy. This film is one of the rare times that filming has even been allowed. So much for the "spirit of the caves."

This is a very disappointing film, one which would have been better served up as a silent documentary, and would have let the paintings speak for themselves. With just a little background information to indoctrinate the viewer, this could have, and should have, been a wonderful film experience. I want my money back.

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