Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

light reduction is a big problem with 3D which is a
bit of a disaster for a 3D film set in a cave.
I finally got to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams. All six loyal readers of this blog will know that I’m a Herzog fanboy/acolyte. My favourite book of the year so far is probably Herzog’s account of the filming of Fitzcarraldo - Conquest of the Useless (and I hear there’s even an audiobook now read by Herzog which has got to be amazing).
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All this is a preface to a disappointed review of Cave. It’s a decent enough documentary but it is not up to Herzog’s usual high standards. It’s pretty obvious that Herzog just didn’t have enough material for a feature film about the Chauvet Cave and had to scurry to fill the time with archaeological finds from other caves in France and other digs in Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere. Herzog’s quirky style doesn’t really fit this material, which attempts to be a forensic documentary and at the same time a humorous look at the scientists investigating the cave. He doesn't commit to either scheme very seriously. Herzog did this sort of thing so much better in the superior documentary Encounters At The End of the World about scientists in the Antarctic - which is a must see, as is Grizzly Man, Herzog’s film about the late self styled bear whisperer Timothy Treadwell. Other recentish Herzog documentaries I'd recommend are: Little Dieter Needs To Fly, Wings of Hope and My Best Fiend which can be watched on YouTube, Google Video or, of course, DVD. Herzog's upcoming film about inmates on Death Row looks much more interesting.
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I really wanted to like Cave of Forgotten Dreams but I got bored in the middle portion and the loud angelic choirs and the camerawork eventually started to make me feel a bit nauseous. The 3D filming made the film much worse than it needed to be, indeed it is a particularly inappropriate technique for a film set inside a dark chamber. The fact that Herzog wasn’t allowed to use arc lamps, coupled with the light reduction caused by the silly 3D glasses meant that the film was very hard to see. 2D would have been better for this movie and I'm sure when I see it in 2D I will like it more. 3D as a concept is probably a busted flush: it’s a gimmick and the gimmick is wearing off again just as it did in the 1950’s and 70’s. Only teenagers and greedy executives like 3D, not adults or indeed, in my experience, young children.