Werner Herzog’s new film will be the 3D documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about the 30,000-year-old drawings recently discovered in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave in southern France. He was inspired to make the documentary after reading Judith Thurman’s 2008 piece in the New Yorker.
Since Chauvet’s discovery in 1994, access has been extremely restricted due to concerns that overexposure, even to human breath, could damage the priceless drawings. Only a small number of researchers have ever seen the art in person.
Herzog gained extraordinary permission to film the caves using lights that emit no heat. But Herzog being Herzog, this is no simple act of documentation. He initially resisted shooting in 3D, then embraced the process, and now it’s hard to imagine the film any other way. Just as Lascaux left Picasso in awe, the works at Chauvet are breathtaking in their artistry. The 3D format proves essential in communicating the contoured surfaces on which the charcoal figures are drawn. Beyond the walls, Herzog uses 3D to render the cave’s stalagmites like a crystal cathedral and to capture stunning aerial shots of the nearby Pont-d’Arc natural bridge. His probing questions for the cave specialists also plunge deep; for instance: “What constitutes humanness?”
Below, he discusses the documentary with Roger Ebert at the 2010 Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, CO.
Update:Cheesiness aside, you can get a decent idea of the cave paintings from this video. Something tells me Herzog’s account will be a little classier. What is up with the music, lightening effects and typography? Holy moly.