Saturday, July 23, 2011

Impression of Werner Herzog's CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS

IN Werner Herzog’s film CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, the caves in themselves are incredibly beautiful, crystalline with rock like folded meringue, surfaces like crystallized sugar, and old bones seeming turned into enamel.
     Perhaps, like me, you have many special feelings about caves, from many connections, real and metaphorical, but my strongest feelings derive from reading anthropologist, Geza Roheim’s writings about the significance of caves to aborigines of Australia as the residence of The Eternal Ones of the Dream, central to their myths and rituals.     ( .  Except for one significant story he tells about the caves in Australia Werner Herzog does not seem aware of Roheim’s wonderful, but obscure book, The Eternal Ones of the Dream, and it is perhaps just a common feeling about caves that caused him to name his film, CAVE OF THE FORGOTTEN DREAMS. 
     The meaning Geza Roheim gathered from how the aborigines felt about their cave of the Eternal Ones of the Dream is sublimely rich:  a cave that is both womb and tomb, end and origin, where the bones of the ancestral past feed the present what it needs to sustain its soul. 
Perhaps intending to allow us to have that experience of the cave where real and myth are at last fused, toward the end of his documentary Herzog allows us a time of wordless meditation as our eyes travel over the images in the Chavet cave, and our own thoughts wander and wonder.  What is the power celebrated in these big-chested animals?  Why the panache of their curling horns?       The amazing artists of that time, almost 32,000 years ago, lived with more powerful antecedents of the current descendants of those animals, as drawn on the cave walls.  And the trick that hits home is that a recurring pair in human history and myth are joined here “at the beginning,” a figure that is the head and torso of a bull blending with the lower torso of a female human.  
In the case of this movie, the 3D adds immeasurably. 
DO SEE See a short, incredible interview with Herzog where he speaks about the film’s postscript about radioactive albino crocodiles:
The only thing not answered for me is how they painted the figures:  Was if from the charcoal on the burned end of a stick?  Were their earth dyes?  The drawings are done with an easy swing of the arms, but where a hand-print was made, I guess all the people who did that thought up the same thing:  To chew some material until it was pulp, then, through puckered lips, spray at the hand outstretched on a rock.
I guess it was all done with “charcoal,” but I need to go and check that out.  The movie should have told.

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