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Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Blu-ray Review)

One of my favorite directors of all time has returned to his documentary roots with Cave of Forgotten Dreams which chronicles his exploration of the Chauvet Cave in France that contain cave drawings that date back 35,000 years and are twice as old as  any other known to exist. Werner Herzog has been given incredible access to the cave, but this access comes great responsibility and limitations. Only Herzog and a small group of his technicians are allowed into the cave and with very minimal equipment.  Cave of Forgotten Dreams also marks Herzog’s first venture into the world of 3-D filmmaking. Yes, this IS a documentary, so you know Werner Herzog will be pulling out all the stops. Get ready to be thrilled and entertained as only incomparable Mr. Herzog can do.  

 

Film

I’ve been jumping up at the chance to review some pretty eclectic stuff for Why So Blu my last few reviews, and getting a chance to review Cave of Forgotten Dreams is no exception. In fact, it ws almost a given. Why? Because it was a Werner Herzog directed project. If you know me then you know how I feel about the guy. He’s one of my favorite directors of all time and I even have a t-shirt with his name in some killer font that I sport on a regular basis. Why the hell not, indeed!

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the real life story about the Chauvet Cave in France that was discovered to have ancient drawings that were dated at over 30,000 years old – nearly twice as old as the previous cave drawings on record. Herzog and his crew were given amazing access by the government to chronicle the cave and some of the interiors. All this done with a skeleton crew. This would also mark Herzog’s first entry into 3-D filmmaking. Equipped with non-fancy cranes which were nothing more than a stick with a camera that acted as a steady-cam, Herzog and company ventured forth into the beautiful darkness to capture some of the most amazing footage of art ever for the world to see.

I can already hear the groan and moans of some of the readers, but I’m here to tell you that these drawings are epic in scope. Why? They look contemporary by today’s standards. We’re also talking about realistic drawings done more than 30,000 years ago. The implications of that are enormous. Not just due to the fact that whoever drew these pieces on the wall was exceptionally talented, but for the fact that this was clearly an ancestor of ours. I’m no anthropologist, but from the information presented in the documentary, the drawings were done by neanderthal man. What’s also neat is that lots of extinct animals have been depicted on the walls with exceptional detail. These animal include ancient wooly mammoths, rhinos, lions, bears, etc. There are also many skeletal remains and some that have been preserved by the calcite which is really neat. It almost looks like the stuff that the aliens from Aliens secrete when they cocoon their victims.

As with any Werner Herzog film or project, he weaves a sort of poetic narrative that ensnares you and makes you stay put until completion. That’s usually what happens, but not so much with Cave of Forgotten Dreams, because it plays pretty straightforward. Well, not until the end, anyways. Herzog wraps up the end of the film with a very creative and unusual epilogue that feature two baby albino alligators that make for one of the coolest, strangest, and most fascinating metaphors (and film endings) that I have ever seen. Does it make sense? I can’t answer that, because everyone will have a different reaction to it.

If you’re a die-hard Werner Herzog fan like I am then you will most likely gravitate towards this release. It’s not your ordinary “nature” documentary, but does feature some pretty cool stuff that can be appreciated by all. If it’s your first time watching a Herzog documentary then I will say that you’re in for a treat as it seems to be one of his more accessible projects that he’s done in recent memory. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Video 

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1, widescreen. Okay, this one is a slight bummer, and I’ll try to explain. It looks like the area that the caves are in is a mountainous area where there is not a lot of greenery or vegetation, etc… The colorful spots that we do see in the film mostly come from the cave interiors. On the outside, some of the trees, bushes, leaves, and so forth, don’t seem to be that saturated with color. I did notice that contrast also runs a bit hot in these exterior scenes. That’s my minor quibble, but other than that, Cave of Forgotten Dreams looks bloody stellar! Herzog looks spry and healthy and the detail is extremely evident in this transfer. All of the people featured on this disc look nice and healthy. The details in the cave are extraordinary clear and crisp. You can see the detail in the calcite that forms these gorgeous sparkling sculptures all around the interior of the cave and inner walls. The artwork that’s presented on the walls that line the caves look amazing. It’s like a living canvas and the HD presentation does it justice.

Audio

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. I know this is a documentary, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Cave of Forgotten Dreams is one of the best sounding documentaries on Blu-ray that I’ve ever heard! Werner Herzog provides his trademark and insightful commentary via the center channel, and for most of the film, will be in charge of the center field. It’s a calm, soothing narration, and it really takes you away. It’s as if Herzog is giving you a personal tour of the cave himself. The rest of the audio mix is equally mixed with ambient sounds and an amazing musical score composed by Ernst Reijseger. To say that the score is anything but amazing would be a severe understatement. It rocked.

Special Features 

Cave of Forgotten Dreams includes the 2-D and 3-D versions of the film on one disc, a short film directed by Werner Herzog that focuses on composer Ernst Reijseger as he records music at an old church in The Netherlands. There’s also a trailer for the film. The short film runs 40 minutes and is a special unto itself which is why it scores pretty high. It’s a bonus piece by Herzog for the same price, in my opinion!

  • Ode To The Dawn of Man – Short film by Werner Herzog
  • Trailer

Final Thoughts 

Documentaries like Cave of Forgotten Dreams are going to cater to a select bunch no matter who’s directing the film. That’s a given. Considering this is a Werner Herzog film there’s that sense of gravitas, because he’s an amazing filmmaker that goes between documentaries and feature films almost regularly. In fact, Werner Herzog has just released another documentary called Into the Abyss which focuses on capital punishment. Herzog is on a roll and am looking forward to that film on Blu-ray in the future, too. As for Cave of Forgotten Dreams go, if you’re a Herzog fan, it’s a given that you will enjoy this release, and even if you’re not a fan or fan of the subject matter in general, I’d say give it a shot. You may learn something…and it’s got a pair of albino alligators, but you have to make it to the end to see them. 😉

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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