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17 February 2011
3D movie portrays the rock art of the Chauvet Cave

Werner Herzog's new film 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' is a stunning 3D documentary about a cave in France that is home to the world's oldest known human art. The legendary German director's most recent work features in the official program of the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival and his documentary portrays the Chauvet Cave in southern France.
     The cave, discovered in 1994, is home to hundreds of pristine artworks. Over 30,000 years old, they are the oldest known pictures created by humans and show at least 13 different species of animals, including horses, cattle, lions and bears. In the spring of 2010, Herzog was given a unique opportunity to film inside the cave. He and his team were only allowed access for a period of a few days, and were only able to use battery-powered equipment. High levels of radon gas and carbon dioxide in the cave meant they could only stay inside for a few hours at a time.
     "You have to realize that, about 20,000 years ago, there was a cataclysmic event when an entire rock face collapsed and sealed off the cave. It's a completely preserved time capsule. You've got tracks of cave bears that look like they were left yesterday, and you've got the footprint of a boy who was probably eight years old next to the footprint of a wolf. Visitors can't step on anything, so you can only move around on a two foot wide metal walkway," said Werner Herzog.
"Everything is so fresh that you have the sensation that the painters have merely retreated deeper into the dark and that they are looking at you," he added.
     The director opted to make the film in 3D to do justice to the cave paintings, which use the contours of the rock for dramatic effect. The result is a visually stunning documentary that transports the viewer into the cavern and captures the artwork in all its glory. "The paintings are not just on flat walls - you have these enormous niches, bulges and protrusions, as well as stalactites and stalagmites. The effect of the three-dimensionality is phenomenal. It's a real drama which the artists of the time understood, and they used it for the drama of their paintings," Herzog said.
     A trailer is already available on YouTube

Edited from Spiegel Online (16 February 2011)

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