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on 2 May 2015
Delighted to see the images. Unfortunately the narration left a lot to be desired. I'm not much more informed than I was before. My French is also not good enough for the parts in French. Could have been a vastly better film
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on 23 December 2013
A wonderful narrative. I found this to be an intelligent, thought provoking and respectful look into the far distant past of our ancestors. Aside from technological advances It left me with the feeling that these people inhabiting these caves were just the same as ourselves and left me with the impression that the human species hasn't really improved in any great sense over many thousands years .These people seemed cultured, capable and probably much more resourceful than their modern descendants.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2017
…in fact, the cave that is the subject of this excellent documentary by Werner Herzog, contains the oldest cave paintings yet discovered, dating from approximately 32,000 years ago, twice as old as any other cave paintings yet discovered.

The cave which contains the paintings was discovered by three French speleologists on December 18, 1994 in the Ardeche gorge in southern France. The cave is near the famous Pont d’Arc, a natural stone arch that spans the river, which is popular with canoeists and kayakers in the summer. I should know, I’ve been one on several occasions. The cave is named after one of the three speleologists: Jean Marie Chauvet. The cave is in excellent condition since its original entrance had been sealed off by a rock slide approximately 20,000 years ago. It was found by examining the air escaping from vents in the ground. The original access was through a hole that one person could barely squeeze through.

Herzog is again “clicking on all cylinders” with this film. The tonality of his narration exudes “wisdom,” and more importantly, so too does the content. Access to the cave is severely restricted due to the damage that humans can cause, deliberately at times, inadvertently, at other times, simply by their breathing. Herzog is able to obtain permission for his limited crew to film the cave, so that this important patrimony can be appreciated by all of us. The film is in English, and such is the universality of the language, that portions show French and Germans speaking to each other in English. In some cases, the English is dubbed when a French person is speaking.

The paintings are so fresh looking that their authenticity was originally questioned. Microscopic overgrowth that would take thousands of years proved that they were original. The most famous panel contains four horses’ heads. There are also lions, rhinos, and bison. There appears to be a minotaur, the partial body of a female, with the head of a bison. Unlike the paintings in the cave at Lascaux, there is virtually no use of color in the paintings. Herzog notes the efforts to depict the motion of the animals, including 8 legs on a rhino, a type of “protocinema,” as he calls it. Another fascinating aspect of the paintings is that some images overlay others, and via carbon-dating, they appear to have been made 5,000 years apart, longer than the time that separates us from ancient Troy. Archeologists believe that humans never lived in the cave; it was simply visited for ceremonial purposes. And it was much colder back then, with much lower sea levels that made it possible to walk from the sites of present day London to Paris, since there was no channel. “Global warming” must have been an aspiration to the painters in this cave.

Extensive mapping of the cave has been performed, via 127 scanner stations, involving 1800 hours topography. At Lascaux, an amazingly realistic replica of the cave was built, so humans can tour the “faux” cave, preserving the original. I’ve toured it, and found the movie on how it was constructed to be utterly fascinating. Herzog mentions, in his movie of 2011, that a similar replica would be constructed for the Chauvet cave, and it was opened in 2015. Those many hours of computer mapping of the original had to be essential for the latter project.

The last few minutes of the film are the painted images, without sound or narration, an impressive way of stressing their significance in the silence of the caves. Once again, Herzog has produced a richly informative movie about one intriguing aspect of the world around us. 5-stars.
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on 31 July 2015
This is the most important 3D film that I own. Viewed on 100’ projection screen it takes me into a cave with drawings on the walls. 36000 years ago.

I have the 2011 dvd which plays quite well especially for the inside the cave scenes. It is, however, the first upgrade that requires me to keep the original dvd next to this new blu ray/3D version.

Supplied by Den’s DVD it is the Spanish edition. There is English or Spanish audio options and Spanish subtitles which you can only cancel if you choose the Spanish audio. The three interviews undertaken entirely in French have no English subtitles or voice-over. My original dvd does have English voice-over here. There are no Extras on the Catalan version which has a slim blu ray case. Total cost £10.26 including first class postage arriving next day.

The 3D technology excels itself for this documentary film. Rocks or stalactites hanging from ceilings really do come into your living space. The scene outside with a spear throwing tutorial nearly had my eye out!

Personally I enjoyed the director’s narration. His talk of ‘inner landscapes’ is a broad and deep perspective beside the science of it all; for example you could walk from Paris to London when these drawings were made. In the end he links our view of the images to an albino crocodile viewing them. That is how much ‘we’ know.

What strikes me hard is that intelligence has remained the same. What we are we once were. You can read the cave as mutual respect between all the animals or as brutal human slaughter of more than what he needs: I lean toward the former. Spirituality might just be a wrong turn here. Physical reality ruled, sharing an individual’s expression. The language of Man.
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VINE VOICEon 30 September 2011
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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on 2 June 2012
If you like going to art galleries, this is perhaps the ultimate one: a cave discovered only 20 years ago, sealed by rockfall aeons before, thus becoming a time capsule - perfectly preserving the paintings and bones within in the process.

The drawings on the walls of these caves aren't the primitive stick-creatures I was expecting, but portraits of recogniseable animals - horses, lions, rhinos - done with beautiful use of shading and perspective. Some of them, incredibly, are over 35,000 years old.

If that's not enough to give you brainache, then consider that some of the paintings were done 5,000 years later, and that they cannot be fakes because some of them have been partly-obscured by calciate rock-formations caused by millenia of water drips.

The cave itself is extraordinary, and the camera lingers owderingly over every detail - there are huge glittering curtains of crystal and calcium growths, skulls embedded in stalagmites - even without the mind-blowing paintings it is wonderful.

If you like archaeology, caving, art or ancient history this is a MUST. If you don't like to concentrate for too long, you'll get rapidly fed-up with this.

The implications of these paintings are almost too much for me to get my head around. This film is unique. It's a slight departure for Werner from his recent documentaries, which have all had people at the center of them - something which detracts very slightly from the accessibility of it. Still, it is remarkable stuff.
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on 8 February 2012
Perhaps it's that we are too spoilt by the likes of BBC Natural History and National Geographic, that this film comes across as a wasted opportunity to share such a significant place as Chauvet Cave with the world. The commentary is that of a sixth former trying to impress by use of meaningless non sequitors. The whole is reminiscent of fillers on Euronews, except it goes on and on, together with interminable and forgettable Dutch quasi classical music. The final ten minutes has no relevance to what has gone before, unless it is to demonstrate that the director himself has actually lost the plot - not that he ever achieved any direction throughout. The only saving grace is when he shuts up and lets the pictures talk directly to us, except the music reaches crescendo in its irrelevance. Reference is made to aboriginal art, yet are we shown any? No! We are shown some palaeolithic sculptures from Germany, which may or may not be relevant, any connection is made only obliquely. The film gives no taste of the discovery of the cave, no clues to the lifestyle of the creators of the art, in fact the point is made that they never lived in the cave so where and how did they live? Some context of that nature would have been useful. What comes over is that the custodians of the cave, together with the local tourist promotion authorities, decided to permit a film to be made to make up for the fact so few people will ever see these cave paintings. Rather than consider who might be well qualified to make a film under these conditions, and there is an elite of cave photographers, they went instead for a big name director and let him get on with it. Unfortunately he has been seduced by the desire to make a piece of art himself. In this he has failed, and we end with neither a documentary nor a spectacle. Hopefully, when the scientists have even more to tell us from their research, someone else will be given the chance to do justice to this cradle of art. Meanwhile, get yourself a copy of Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave published by Abrams/ Thames & Hudson 1996 (or the original La Grotte Chauvet by Paul G Bahn), you won't be disappointed and can choose a more fitting soundtrack!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 October 2011

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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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 August 2011
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.
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on 8 February 2015
Just facts:
- There are two subtitles options: Italian and none.
- There are two sound options: original track and Italian track. In Italian, everything is voiced in... Italian. When Italian actor is narrating, you cannot hear Herzog's original in the background. However, I do not understand Italian, so that's all I can say.
- The important bit is that the original track is half English - half French. Herzog himself narrates in English. Majority of the people he talks to also speak in English. However, there are at least five scientists who put up lengthy monologues in French (even though I suspect they all know English... never mind ;)). I couldn't understand a word, so had to give the disc 4/5. If the film (or at least this edition of it) is in English, which it clearly is, then why not put up English subtitles when somebody speaks in other languages?

Anyways, the film hardly loses much even if you don't know French. Or Italian. It would be even better if not for the "we are not allowed to make a few steps off the metal path, or the sky will collapse and the world as we know it will end" (you'll get it) nonsense. I mean, come on! What is wrong with you, people, let the guy shoot the paintings!!! ;)
Sorry for the above, couldn't help it.

Additional material is a mixed bag. However, the interview with Herzog in front of an audience (in English) is quite good.

The quality of the picture was very good (watched in 3D).
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