Cave Of Forgotten Dreams - Online Review

'this entire documentary is prefaced on the fact that staring at a rockface, for long stretches of time, is something we wish to do'

No matter what is on them, how old they are or how warped their nooks and crannies, I put it to you now that staring at rock walls is not the sort of pastime from which dreams are made.

Werner Herzog, in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, seems to set out to disagree. It helps that the drawings on his chosen walls, those in the Chauvet Caves of Southern France, are the oldest pictorial drawings known to man but still, this entire documentary is prefaced on the fact that staring at a rock face, for long stretches of time, is something we wish to do.

The first twenty minutes or so suggest that, actually, it might be. The numbers involved are huge and engaging in their practical demonstration. Watch for the bit where a doctor points at some charcoal on a wall 'someone swiped their torch here... twenty-eight thousand years ago'. The drawings are incredible, well-defined and explored, you can see why so many people have spent so much time studying them, trying, as Herzog puts it, to get back in touch with a past which is so, so, far out of reach.

But quickly, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams starts to drag. Herzog tries to find new ways to make the thing interesting; from getting researchers to throw ancient spears to the now infamous coda and the albino crocodiles. He seems to come to the same conclusion that I eventually did: looking at ancient walls needs a bit of pizazz to it, something to, well... liven the whole thing up, which despite best attempts this never gets to.

Important historical document no doubt but dull documentary. Like being taught history by a fusty teacher, who only lets you read the textbook. Dry.

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams was playing on Lovefilm Instant.

Look further...

'the most exciting and simultaneously difficult aspect of Cave of Forgotten Dreams is that its main characters are not only always off screen but are from thousands and thousands of years in the past' - Anomalous Materials, B-


  1. This is one of those films that I fell you had to see in the cinema AND in 3D. We watched it at FACT in Liverpool and the showing was followed by a live Q&A with Herzog by satellite from London. I was mesmerised by it and felt that the time flew by.

    1. There's a lot of time spent where the camera just sort of gently pirouettes round walls so imagine that's better in 3D? Still not sure it would completely grab me...

  2. Apparently it's very good in 3D but, if as you say, there's not a huge attraction to the material, then it's sort of pointless talking about the 3D. :)

    1. Yes, just thought he struggled to find a good story from it. Lot of time staring at rock faces, like I say. Can see that being more interesting in 3D - as John says - but still not certain its 100% film-worthy.