Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cave of Redundant Narration

I have to say that I was really looking forward to Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The thought of stepping into a cave not touched by humans for 35,000 years and seeing pre-historic man's first attempts at art gave me goosebumps. But after the opening shot it was apparent that this documentary was on a one way track. Herzog forces a lot on his audience and doesn't let them develop their own understanding of the Chauvet caves. The film gets boughed down with all kinds of spiritual jargon and pompous assumptions that take the audience away from the visuals (which should have been the driving factor of this documentary). The film should have been no more then fifteen minutes long but instead Herzog extends it to an exhausting 90 minutes and crams his own personal view of the cave down his audiences throats. Some of the interviews were used for obvious comedic effect and did not need to be apart of the documentary. Perhaps Werzog through his incoherent ramblings and excessive interviews was trying to amplify the mystery of the cave but his efforts came off as, for the lack of a better term, weird as hell.

Once in the cave the 3D effects really paid off. Being able to see every depression in the rock and how the drawings interacted with the caves natural space was surreal. There was a good ten minutes at the end of the film were Herzog mercifully stops narrating and just lets us see the cave. The crew did an amazing job using the lights they had to reveal and fade the drawings. The camera work, for the most part, was done very well considering the crews restrictions. But that's the only time I appreciated the 3D effects. Most of the interviews looked fake because the subject popped away from the backgrounds which became a visual distraction rather than pleasing to the eye. Had the movie simply been that 10 minutes or so of actual cave footage I would have came out happier.

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams was like sitting through a really off the wall lecture put on by Grimace (not even Ronald McDonald takes him seriously). The ideas Werzog present take away from the natural beauty of the pre-historic drawings. I understand art is to be interpreted by the beholder in which ever way they would like. I'm just sad we had to put ourselves in Herzog's shoes and listen to his sometimes ridiculous assumptions of what the paintings could mean. It's sad to see this film, which had so much potential to be jaw dropping, get side tracked by one directors personal feelings.

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