Saturday, January 12, 2013
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
It's not my habit to re-post from other people's writing, but today I'm going to make an exception. On the advise of Webb Chiles, last night, we took in a two-year-old film by Werner Herzog about a limestone cave in France containing early paintings, perhaps from as long ago as 32,000 years.
Herzog has long been one of my favorite directors, but in this case, the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams has a power all it's own, apart from the eclectic style of the German director who has captured my imagination so many times.
The most remarkable thing about this cave and the truly astonishing art found there, is that our current scientific theories about the development of humans puts the emergence of art far in the future of this scene. If the carbon dating is correct, Neanderthals roamed the icy plains of Europe at this time, and it is believed they left no records of any kind. So the hominids who adorned this cave, for a period of approximately 10 millenia, were more like us.
The cave was discovered in December 1994 by three French cavers, Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire. Following an air current coming from the cliff, they dug and crawled their way into the cave, which had been sealed tight for 20,000 years. After finally making their way to an enormous chamber, Ms. Deschamps held up her lamp and, seeing an image of a mammoth, cried out, “They were here!”.
My impression was just the same.
The film is in 3D, which is beyond any technology at our house, but even so, the drawings have a living quality, which, as Herzog suggests in this movie trailer, seem very contemporary.
There is, as we might imagine, some controversy about the age of the images in the Chauvet Cave, though the art found there is exceptional, give or take a few millennium.