(Sundance Selects) Lauded filmmaker Werner Herzog -- the director behind such documentaries as Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss -- finds a pet project of sorts in his latest foray, Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D. In this go around, the acclaimed documentarian finds fertile subject matter as he takes views on a cavernous journey across some of France's most treacherous caves along its southern coast. Unseen by most, Herzog was one of the only filmmakers ever granted access to these stunning caves.
With some truly astonishing footage, this 3D documentary explores France's Chauvet Cave, offering an insightful look at one of the world's most fascinating natural wonders. You quickly find yourself transported to another time and place as the audience joins Herzog and his crew as they delicately traverse the creepy cavernous twists and turns, and slowly stumble upon artwork etched on the walls of the caves from over 30,000 years ago.
As your journey continues, Herzog narrates and educates viewers on every facet of the fascinating discovery which makes you feel like you’re part of the trek. A cross between one of nature’s most stunning wonders and something akin to opening the tombs of Egypt, these caves contain a vast array of fascinating findings that lead back to the days of Early Man.
As you crawl deeper into the caves, Herzog and his crew stumble upon ancient animal bones covering the ground as they find layers of sparkly calcite covering virtually every surface. Herzog clearly has an understanding and an absolutely infectious fascination with mystery surrounding these ancient dwellings, which help make this quest into the unknown all the more enjoyable for the casual viewer.
The Chauvet Cave paintings were created over 30,000 years ago and are fiercely guarded by the French government. The public has been prohibited anywhere near these caves for decades, which makes this documentary even more precious and valuable, given the fact that these images captured by the filmmaker are so unique.
Although at times this forty-minute documentary can be somewhat visually repetitive, it’s ultimately Herzog’s passion for his subject matter which keeps things moving swiftly along. Like 2005’s Grizzly Man, which concerns the tragic ending of the life of longtime grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, it is Herzog’s personality that comes through loud and clear via virtually any subject matter he tackles. With his distinctive German accent, Herzog comes across as professorial and often a little unintendedly comedic (as any fan of Grizzly Man would attest).
As if the documentary didn’t contain enough surprises, the film ends eerily enough downwind from the cave with a show by some bizarre looking radioactive albino alligators.
If you’re looking for a nature documentary that defies description and something you've never seen before, Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams may be just what you’re looking for. Overlooked by many after its brief stay at theaters, this film is available this month on video, as well as Netflix streaming.
For Fans Of: Grizzly Man, Arctic Tale, Encounters at the End of the World
Why We Like It: Werner Herzog, Team Buzzine Hearts Documentaries