8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A curious film about a curious cave, for curious minds...,
This review is from: Cave of Forgotten Dreams [DVD] (DVD)
This is an unusual film, a documentary about filming a documentary, almost. It reveres and explores a unique collection of almost impossibly beautiful cave paintings which were found in France 15 years ago. These paintings are over 30,000 years old and were hidden by rockfalls for tens of thousands of years. So they feature stunning artwork of extinct animals, drawn by our ancestors during an ice age, and they are wondrously well preserved.
The cave system is a huge one - which isn't always obvious because the film-makers are very restricted in where they can go and how much light they can use. Only an occasional shot reveals how big the caves are, and the splendour of the calcite stalactites and stalagmites. The floor of the caves are scattered with charcoal, animal bones and human footprints - all of them dating from 30,000 years ago. It's astonishing and the film is very successful at capturing and exploring this remarkable cultural treasure trove.
However, I felt that it was a little less useful when it came to explaining the cave art and the lifestyle of the humans who lived all those centuries ago. So much of this is hypothetical and involves experimental archaeology. The segments where earnest scientists explained (in their second or third languages) their pet theories or demonstrated how stone age technology might have worked were not as compelling as the filming in the cave itself. The scene where a reconstructed flute is used to play the Star Spangled Banner is... pointless, if mildly entertaining.
In many ways this might have been better as an hour-long film which concentrated more on the images of the animals. We see one particular panel in some depth - and it is stunning, showing wild horses in mid-gallop, surrounded by other animals from the plains - but other interesting scenes weren't given so much coverage. The drawing of two cave-lions, stalking side by side is extremely powerful, but we only see it once when it's used to explain that we now know whether this extinct animal had a mane or not...
The soundtrack is also astonishing. It gets almost painfully discordant at times, underlining the power of the animals, the unknown intentions of the artist and the disjunct between `us' (modern man) and `them' (the society of the cave painters).
Recommended for art fans and those who enjoy ancient history or quirky factual films in general. Avoid this if you prefer conclusive evidence and a coherent narrative.