The film sees the adventurer come director, granted access to France’s Chauvet Cave; home to the oldest works of art in human discovery. Made hyper-real via what is arguably the first necessary use of the 3D, one is immediately struck by the illusion of tactility afforded to these ancient cave paintings.
Physicality – having been of prevalent interest to Herzog since the beginning of his long and fruitful career – has never before achieved such a tangible quality to his subject. Indeed, the contours and textures of the cave and the markings of the paintings themselves appear as the first images in 3D cinema in which the much cliched notion of ‘it’s like I can touch it’ is validated.
However, despite the beauty of his film and the astonishing effect he achieves, Herzog is keen to address that 3D is only of interest to him for this film specifically. Following the screening in a Q&A, he stated: “My next film is not in 3D, nor will the next five be, nor were the sixty before, and given the opportunity to go back and film them in 3D, I wouldn’t.”
For the most part the film consistsof long examining shots of the cave and its paintings depicting all manner of prehistoric animals, but Herzog is ever keen to delve deeper: interviewing numerous experts he yields a variety of the existential, poetic and delightfully comedic responses that typify the auteur’s extensive canon.
As one might also expect, his voice-over makes many acute observations and speculations about our own humanity. The film’s slightly tenuous end section, which goes beyond the location of the cave, delivers a most bizarre yet brilliant solliloquy on what it is that links us to those ancient brothers and sisters who lived some thirty-thousand years ago; asserting that it is our constant fascination with dreams and fantasies that link us across the abyss of time.
As a self-proclaimed, but hardly refutable, good soldier of cinema on a lifelong quest to produce a more adequate grammar of images, Herzog has certainly emerged victorious on this occasion. A true master craftsman: let us trust that he will continue to fight the good fight for films to come.