Werner down un­der

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

THIS DE­LIGHT­FUL doc­u­men­tary is, by the stan­dards of its ec­cen­tric cre­ator, a rel­a­tively con­ven­tional pro­ject. A film about French cave paint­ings is, af­ter all, just the sort of thing you’d ex­pect to see on the Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel at tea time. How­ever, the di­rec­tor in ques­tion is Werner Her­zog, so all usual no­tions of con­ven­tion­al­ity go out the win­dow.

The great Ger­man, whose ca­reer re­mains more ro­bust than any of his con­tem­po­raries, has taken the un­usual step of shoot­ing the film in 3D. You couldn’t quite say he makes an unan­swer­able case for the much-crit­i­cised process, and the nov­elty still wears off af­ter 20 min­utes. But the ad­di­tion of depth helps demon­strate the ex­tent to which such the pre­his­toric artists used nat­u­ral con­tours to flesh out their pic­tures of lions, bears and horses.

Cave of For­got­ten Dreams deals with paint­ings in the Chau­vet Cave, near the Ardeche River, which, by some ex­perts’ reck­on­ing, could be the old­est such art­works in ex­is­tence. Re­dis­cov­ered in 1994, the paint­ings had, thanks to a rock fall some 25,000 years ago, re­mained un­seen since the Stone Age.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the French authorities have gone to ex­treme lengths to pro­tect the works. Walk­ways have been laid down. The paint­ings can only be viewed from a dis­tance. It re­flects par­tic­u­larly well on the cu­ra­tors that, when se­lect­ing a film-maker to doc­u­ment the finds, they picked the di­rec­tor of Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitz­car­raldo. That’s cre­ative think­ing.

The defin­ing fea­ture in Her­zog’s re­cent doc­u­men­taries has been the di­rec­tor’s own, rum­bling, amused, oc­ca­sion­ally pedan­tic voiceover. Here, he al­most sounds ex­cited (though not ex­actly happy, of course) as he talks us through the as­tound­ing ori­gins of the paint­ings. It fairly bog­gles the mind to con­sider that the pieces, which Her­zog sees as a “form of proto-cin­ema”, were touched up and added to over cen­turies. All con­ven­tional time frames are re­dun­dant.

So, Cave of For­got­ten Dreams is just a tra­di­tional, if very fine, doc­u­men­tary that hap­pens to have been shot in 3D? Fret not, Her­zo­gians. A coda con­cern­ing al­bino croc­o­diles is as odd as any­thing in the great man’s dis­tin­guished oeu­vre.

Werner Her­zog leads his crew deep into the Chau­vet Cave

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.