Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Canada/USA/France/Germany/United Kingdom, 2010. Creative Differences, History Films, Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication, Arte France, Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, More4. Screenplay by Werner Herzog, based on an article by Judith Thurman. Cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger. Produced by Adrienne Ciuffo, Erik Nelson. Music by Ernst Reijseger. Film Editing by Joe Bini, Maya Hawke. Toronto International Film Festival 2010.
A cave in rural France becomes the central hub of the human imagination when it is discovered to possess drawings on its walls made tens of thousands of years ago by early humans, drawings which have gone unseen by the human eye since. Werner Herzog had the rare privilege of being allowed into the caves just over ten years after their discovery, permitted for a few days to film its contents for this chilling and fascinating documentary made in 3D. Herzog also interviews the scientists whose research focuses on the Chauvet caves, and editorializes quite a bit on the images that he sees, startlingly sharp depictions of humans, sexuality and animals. At times Herzog veers too much into speculation (talking about the artists’ dreams, etc) when more information would be appreciated; a bear skull atop a stone table making a prehistoric altar is glossed over far too quickly. The grainy, handheld footage will be nauseating for some, but whatever its drawbacks this is a fascinating account of a hugely important discovery in the history of civilization, and one cannot blame even this hugely important auteur for not always knowing what to make of it.