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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Ancestors Part Uno.
********CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS********

Werner Herzog was a very privileged man indeed to gain access to the Chauvet cave in France's Ardeche region. Lascaux cave, once known as the Sistene Chapel of prehistoric cave painting has now been superceded by Chauvet, which was discovered by three fortunates only in 1994. This remarkable cave was fortunately covered by...
Published on 21 Oct 2011 by Bob Salter

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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Good, the Bad and the Quirky
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and you may too, but I find the almost-universal five-star reviews surprising.

Firstly the Good. Herzog is a quizzical, unhurried guide who takes us right into the experience of actually entering and exploring the cave, just as much as he takes us to the stunning cave art itself. There is an attempt to put the art in some sort of...
Published on 5 Dec 2011 by Ian Richardson


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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Ancestors Part Uno., 21 Oct 2011
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
********CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS********

Werner Herzog was a very privileged man indeed to gain access to the Chauvet cave in France's Ardeche region. Lascaux cave, once known as the Sistene Chapel of prehistoric cave painting has now been superceded by Chauvet, which was discovered by three fortunates only in 1994. This remarkable cave was fortunately covered by a landslide thousands of years ago which preserved the cave art, in some cases as if it were only done yesterday. These beautiful paintings give us a real link to our Paleolithic ancestors of 30,000 plus years ago. That is incredibly just how old some of these paintings are. Far older than anything previously discovered. The cave is still scattered with the bones of long extinct species like the cave bear and cave lion. Some of the paintings are breathtakingly beautiful with a fluidity of movement that any great artist would be proud of. Perhaps the centrepiece is a jaw dropping collection of horses one above the other, with two woolly rhinoceros engaged in a fight below them which beggars belief. Some of these ancient artists working with primitive tools created wonderful art. They were the Leonardo's of their distant time! Some ingeniously used the natural contours of the rock to give more realism to their pictures. These people had to literally get inside an animals head to track and kill them successfully, an art that has been lost in modern times with the demise of the last bushmen of the Kalahari and the native aboriginals of Australia. It is only with that knowledge that an individual could create such paintings. The dying bull at the Altamira cave in Spain is perhaps the greatest example of this.

Werner Herzog is able to capture this lost world amongst the shadows of the cave. The three discoverers must have felt like Howard Carter stepping into Tutankhamun's tomb for the first time, such is the magnitude of their find. In truth Herzog has little to do other than film this great art work and tangible link to prehistory with the right equipment and sensitivity to make it a success. The great filmmaker, who is experienced in documentaries succeeds emphatically. If you doubt his documentary film ability then watch his remarkable "Fata Morgana" and the more recent "Encounters at the end of the World". He quite rightly dwells on the paintings themselves, which is as it should be. He then tries to cast light on the nature of the painters, which is so difficult as the time span is so vast. Much is left to calculated guesswork. We watch an elderly scientist trying to recreate hunting techniques in a vineyard, who is quick to admit that he does not have the hunting skills built up over a lifetime that his ancestors would no doubt have acquired. What we do know is that they lived in close harmony with nature as a matter of necessity, and that they also had great artists amongst their number. Their very different world was a much colder place still in the throes of the ice age, but with a much vaster bio-diversity, as this fascinating film informs us. Perhaps Herzog would have been better to have left the strange albino crocodiles out in his closing scenes, but you must judge that for yourselves. Much as I would love to have the opportunity to visit Chauvet, that will thankfully not be possible. The French government, unwilling to repeat the mistakes of Lascaux where access by the public caused damage to a priceless piece of our history, sealed Chauvet off immediately to all but a few dedicated scientists who are still working tirelessly on unravelling the caves secrets. Plans are already afoot to build a replica cave for public access. Not quite like the real thing, but the next best! This is perhaps the finest documentary I can recall watching. My own interest in cave art makes me admittedly biased, but to anyone curious about mans past, or just a damn good documentary then watch this. There is a documentary where Herzog answers questions before a live audience who have just watched his film, that is worth catching in the extras.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, 30 Sep 2011
By 
Davywavy2 - See all my reviews
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When a group of caving enthusiasts broke through a rockfall into a long-buried complex in 1994, they unexpectedly stumbled on a collection of cave paintings over 30,000 years old which had been preserved against time by their isolation.

The caves remain secret and for the most part sealed; open for only a few days a year to a small number of researchers in order to prevent damage to the paintings, which could be harmed even by a rise in atmospheric CO2 from human breath. However, after years of trying, Werner Herzog was allowed to take a camera crew into the caves for those few days to capture this frankly amazing 3D documentary.

The walls of the caverns are decorated with horses and rhino which look as if they could have been painted last week, and scattered amongst them are smaller, more personal momentoes - someone, tens of thousands of years ago, left his handprint in ochre on the walls throughout the complex, and in the corner of one cave the footprints of a child and a wolf cross the floor together. It's these human reminders in amongst the archeology and geology which Herzog uses to try and cross the vast gulf of time between us and the artists to try to understand who the people were who made the pictures. What did they think or believe the pictures were for? Art alone, or in some way ritualistic? What purpose did the caves serve for these people? Who were they? Were they like us?

The documentary ranges widely through archaeology, prehistorians and geology to try and develop an answer to the questions, but at the end of the day time separates people from each other as much as distance and the people who created the art remain as unknowable to us as if they were on Mars. What we are left with is glimpses of who they might have been and questions as much about who we are, and were we fit into the world, as about them.

Questions you'll find yourself pondering as you watch the silent image of an ancient horse, dancing in the torchlight through an archway of stone.

As much an experience as a film. Remarkable.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Good, the Bad and the Quirky, 5 Dec 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and you may too, but I find the almost-universal five-star reviews surprising.

Firstly the Good. Herzog is a quizzical, unhurried guide who takes us right into the experience of actually entering and exploring the cave, just as much as he takes us to the stunning cave art itself. There is an attempt to put the art in some sort of context by interviewing experts who have studied the art or who have deeper experience of the prehistory surrounding it. Herzog's interviewing technique (if it can be called such a thing) is wonderfully unexpected. Having taken us deep into the cave and given us a remarkable sense of the physical environment, Herzog goes back to each panel in careful detail. The final section films these anonymous masterpieces in 3D and in shifting light to give an absolutely uncanny sense of being there. As far as the art itself is concerned, it would be impossible to imagine it better filmed. The glacial pace of the story telling is, in this context, really welcome. You have the opportunity to truly experience and absorb the paintings in a manner that we rarely experience on film.

Now for the Bad! I have already mentioned the glacial pace of the film and I would imagine that some viewers will find it unbearably slow. I find the music dismal when it isn't positively irritating and I turned the sound off so that I could actually enjoy looking at the cave art. I also think that there are numerous missed opportunities to place the art in the context of the lives of our ancestors. Admittedly, we are still dependent on a great deal of speculation but, even so, there is so much more that could have been added. I was also baffled as to why the original discoverers were not interviewed. Why were they searching here? What did they expect to find? Surely their personal account of first entering the cave would have been worth having?

As for the Quirky: I'm a fan of many of Herzog's films but the jokey musing on the future judgments to be made by mutant albino crocodiles(!) added nothing to the experience of seeing the rock art.

So, all in all, as a chance to see the oldest prehistoric cave art ever found; this is as close as you and I are going to get (the cave is heavily protected and will never be opened to the public) and the quality of the filming is breathtaking. However, as a chance to truly understand the context and history of our prehistoric culture, this is a sorely missed opportunity. It's well worth seeing if you're at all interested but there's a much more engaging and informative documentary to be made out of this.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sense Of Wonder, 20 Oct 2011
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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Werner Herzog has always been a magician. A director fascinated by
obsession; by the fantastical; by the small details which identify us
as human in our many and various guises. A film-maker of true vision.

This superlative documentary takes its place among the very best examples
of his work. It is a journey into the distant past brought to vivid life
by the extraordinary restraint of the production and Herr Herzog's quietly
spoken narrative. The Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche Gorge in Southern France
is a remarkable phenomenon. The rugged limestone edifice hides one of the
earth's greatest treasures at its heart : the oldest paintings ever made
by human hands. These 32.000 thousand year-old images have been preserved
in all their animistic glory in the cave's cold, dark, undisturbed interior.
Discovered in 1994, the cave is largely closed to prying eyes, other than a
few privileged scientists, to maintain the unique atmosphere and to stop them
dissolving into the ether. To see them here is a rare and wonderful experience.

Herr Herzog is a gentle, naturally inquisitive and humane guide. His sense
of wonder is almost childlike in its wise intensity. The small team he was
allowed to take into the cave with him capture the enchantment with the
bare minimum of filming equipment; even the hand held lights are battery-
powered but these technological limitations become the film's greatest
strength. The images of animals : horses, rhinos, bears and other creatures
become ever-more alive in the shifting swathes of illumination and shadow.
The quality of the drawings is extraordinary given their great age. The
detail and three-dimensionality of their execution takes one's breath away!

Interviews with the committed archaeologists and paleontologists involved in
the project are both informative and inspiring and the director's light touch
is as much absorbed in the details of their individual lives as their emotional
responses to the paintings (one young man, in particular, charmingly reveals
his former existence as a circus performer, much to Herr Herzog's delight!)

The musical soundtrack, as ever in a film by this great artist, is beautifully apt.

The feelings engendered by the film are curiously humbling as we find
ourselves absorbed by this mesmerising story of our early ancestors.

This wonderful piece of work will be enjoyed by viewers of any age.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Essential.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, 28 July 2011
By 
Davywavy2 - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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When a group of caving enthusiasts broke through a rockfall into a long-buried complex in 1994, they unexpectedly stumbled on a collection of cave paintings over 30,000 years old which had been preserved against time by their isolation.

The caves remain secret and for the most part sealed; open for only a few days a year to a small number of researchers in order to prevent damage to the paintings, which could be harmed even by a rise in atmospheric CO2 from human breath. However, after years of trying, Werner Herzog was allowed to take a camera crew into the caves for those few days to capture this frankly amazing 3D documentary.

The walls of the caverns are decorated with horses and rhino which look as if they could have been painted last week, and scattered amongst them are smaller, more personal momentoes - someone, tens of thousands of years ago, left his handprint in ochre on the walls throughout the complex, and in the corner of one cave the footprints of a child and a wolf cross the floor together. It's these human reminders in amongst the archeology and geology which Herzog uses to try and cross the vast gulf of time between us and the artists to try to understand who the people were who made the pictures. What did they think or believe the pictures were for? Art alone, or in some way ritualistic? What purpose did the caves serve for these people? Who were they? Were they like us?

The documentary ranges widely through archaeology, prehistorians and geology to try and develop an answer to the questions, but at the end of the day time separates people from each other as much as distance and the people who created the art remain as unknowable to us as if they were on Mars. What we are left with is glimpses of who they might have been and questions as much about who we are, and were we fit into the world, as about them.

Questions you'll find yourself pondering as you watch the silent image of an ancient horse, dancing in the torchlight through an archway of stone.

As much an experience as a film. Remarkable.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Use of 3D Technology!, 24 Nov 2011
By 
Bruce "from Brighton" (UK - England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Blu-ray 2D + 3D Blu-ray) [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This is the complete antithesis to all those blockbuster films using 3D as a means to entertain and thrill audiences. So, this cave is a staggering find for archaeologists/paleontologists etc. But it is also so fragile and precious, that it can't be alowed to deteriorate any further. This means that while teams of scientists, can look from a distance on walkways, they cannot be allowed to touch the cave walls or trample over the floor, with its huge variety of fossils and prints.

The solution is 3D mapping - every point - millions and millions have been traced into a 3D map - this was one of the most interesting things to see in this film - a complete 3D model of the cave. This was something that worked very well in 3D on TV - and genuinely added to the experience, giving you something that couldn't have been seen in 2D.

Of course the main attraction is the chance to see the Cave Walls in 3D and 1080p HD - so the commentary explains how the artists used the natural contours of the cave walls to shape their paintings. It makes a big difference, therefore, being able to see the shape of the caves and where the paintings are placed in relation.

This is of course useful to scientists studying the caves and is quite spectacular at times for the casual viewer. However this is a serious documentary and there is a lot of backstory and explanation, as well as the chance to see the caves (our only chance as they are sealed and will never be open to the public).

This is quite a long film and at times it gets slightly dull and there are points where you think that this doesn't all need to be a 3D film. The commentary was fine for me, but I can see how it might be a little "wearying" for some? In some ways this is an exciting subject and it is wonderful to see the cave paintings in all their glory, but once you have seen all they have to offer, then the other parts are a bit of a let-down, by comparison.

I think this might have been better as a shorter 3D film which showed the models and the caves - with the background and scientific explanations put in a separate 2D film, which would be for those who were interested. It seems hard to quibble when we have such magnificent views and I am of course very glad that I have seen this film. I'm just saying that its length and earnestness, may deter some viewers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lions and tigers and bears oh my!, 8 Nov 2012
This review is from: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Blu-ray 2D + 3D Blu-ray) [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Compared to the IMAX 3D movies, which have probably spoiled me a little bit, this film isn't particularly special.
The picture quality isn't great and the 3D suffers from severe ghosting and at times looks quite blurry, which is a shame because the subject is quite fascinating.
I don't have a problem with the soundtrack, although I did find the narration at times a little bizarre. Although thankfully not excessive, there were times when I was wondering what hell Herzog was talking about. An interview with a French scientist, who apparently used to be in a circus and had dreams about lions left me wondering if it was entirely serious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The details on the Amazon page are incorrect, 6 April 2014
By 
Mr. R. Steed (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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"Language: Italian, English
Subtitles: Italian"
This is wrong - the language is English and French. As there are no English subtitles, we can't understand the French sections, so I had to return the item, and thus lost out on initial and return postage. Not good enough.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative Use of 3D, 14 Oct 2011
By 
Bob Drake "BobDrake" (Bronx, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Blu-ray 2D + 3D Blu-ray) [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
I happen to like 3D in the theatre and at home, so I want to speak on that aspect of this film.

Mr. Herzog saw the potential for 3D when he first visited the cave. He had to create his own, collapsible 3D equipment to fit through the hermetically sealed cave door, and it had to be manually adjusted for parallax depending on the distance to the image being filmed because access is via a walkway from which they could not stray. On the second visit they could use the knowledge from the first to gauge the length of extensions required to see images on the back side of pendant rocks and protrusions.

The end result is a 3D feast. The cave painters used the 3D shape of the rocks in the cave to give depth to their paintings. In one case the face of a ox is on one face of a rock and the flank of the beast corresponds to a bulge in the side of that same rock, around the corner, much as if you were viewing the animal. While the film and the paintings can be appreciated in 2D, the true artistry of the ancient painters can really only be appreciated in 3D, and Mr. Herzog was right to endure the extra hardship of lugging the 3D camera through the cave.

Bravo.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cave Art, 11 Nov 2014
By 
K. C. (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (DVD)
Even though I thoroughly liked this and it was a privilege to see it (the public are not allowed entrance but there will be a smaller replica cave nearby) in my opinion some editing would have been an advantage especially the end which seemed to divert from the main theme of the prehistoric art of Chauvet cave in France. Anyhow I have only watched this once and it deserves to be seen more than that. This DVD was well worth the price asked and shows some of the work of our predecessors 30- 36000 years ago which depicted some of the formidable massive beasts of that era. To be able to draw as well as this, especially in caves, depicting an image from memory shows that the animals were well imprinted on the mind of the cave artist having an admiration beyond the hunter.
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