Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog


What a journey! I drove along a two lane highway beneath a canopy of great green trees, in a gray threatening-rain afternoon, and went into the Screening Room at the Cape Cod Art Museum -- basement level, a long narrow room, dimly lit, soon entirely filled with people -- all very cave-like. And then watched Werner Herzog and his small crew enter a cave used by early man 32,000 years ago -- and sealed by an avalanche for most of the past 20,000 years -- where the oldest known human artwork reveals the animals that lived in a corridor of forest at the foot of the enormous glaciation of Europe. In that cold climate man co-existed with enormous cave bears, lions, bisons, horses, lions, various antelope -- not only other homo sapiens but Neanderthals as well.

On the walls were outline drawings done with breath taking skill. On the floor are [often covered by thousands of years of crystalization, bones off those animals -- but no human bones. But on the walls the hand prints of a human being, a distinctive individual with a twisted pinkie finger. And on the floor along with cave bear prints, a foot print of a child about 8 years old, beside a wolf's footprint. The mind tries to imagine humans making those drawing by torch light, tries to imagine that person putting his hand print on the walls, that child perhaps with the wolf perhaps walking there hundreds or thousand of years before or after that wolf. One tries to imagine 32,000 years -- most of Europe under ice, as was all of Canada, and the upper 1/3rd of the United States.
Herzog has always been a fascinating film maker, a man with a mind that asks questions, an imagination that challenges movie goers. At the end, after much information from paleontologists an other scientists, he shows us a strange environment that is not very far away from the cave area where the hot water of nuclear power plants is used to steam heat a tropical enclosed environment [for what purpose is not stated] into which not only palms and many kind of tropical tree has been added but alligators, which have increased from a few to hundreds, many of them albino. It is a very weird ending as he talks about evolution. His plan is to leave the audience asking questions. And I certainly will be pondering for a long time. I have a new stock of images in my mind to mull and use as touchstones for a lot of contemplations.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- oh this film is something I want to see. Do you know if it is in video for home use? -- barbara

June Calender said...

I don't know if it's in video yet; it was at Sundance last summer and just getting into theatres now. I very much prefer such movies in a large format but that's not available to everyone.