A still from Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010
Accessed 31 January 2016 from:
Chauvet caves were re-discovered in 1994. They had been sealed off by the collapse of the roof to the original entrance chamber some 20,000 years ago and the marvellous drawings discovered were subsequently preserved.
Herzog’s documentary takes us into the cave to see and marvel at drawings that are 32 thousand years old…the oldest ever found. The cave is 1300 feet long and the drawings are memories of the long forgotten dreams of Paolithic people living in a Europe covered by glaciers and surrounded by a vast array of animals chronicled on the walls of the caves.
The animals range from bison, mammoths, ibex, lions, horses, wolves, rhinos, bears and more. The cave shows the presence of cave beers and humans and was used by the latter for celebrations.
The artists skillfully used the shape of the walls and the undulations to draw particular animals and emphasise their characteristics. Some drawings are 5000 years apart and it’s truly amazing the pristine nature of the drawings bearing in mind their age.
The drawings communicate and transform information more successfully than language. Herzog is unpicking time with his documentary as are the experts that study the cave.
Man is part of the ‘spirit’ and the ‘spirit’ touches up the paintings … they inscribed their memories on the walls and bones to create a mythology of man and animals.
John Berger writes on his visit to the Chauvet cave in ‘On Drawing’ accessed 31 January 2016.
‘The artist conversed with the rock by the flickering light of his charcoal torch. A protruding bulge allowed the bear’s forwpaw to swing outwards wth its awesome weight as it lolloped forward. A fissure followed precisely the line of an ibex’s back. The artist knew these animals absolutely and intimately; his hands could visualize them in the dark. What the rock told him was that the animals – like everything else which existed – were inside the rock, and that he, with his red pigment on his finger, could persuade them to come to the rock’s surface, to its membrane surface, and to brush against it and to stain it with their smells.