Cave of Forgotten Dreams
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Docu about ancient cave art is tame but aimed at adults.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No specific messages here, but it's fascinating to consider the lives of people who lived more than 30,000 years ago; it puts our human existence into proper perspective and reminds us that many of the things that concern us today are rather small in the grand scheme.
Positive Role Models
Kids and teens may find director Werner Herzog himself rather inspiring. He has a kind of unquenchable curiosity and unflappable bravery: He'll venture into virtually any territory to find out more about man's relationship with nature. But it's worth noting that his earlier work is more dangerous and mature.
Violence & Scariness
One interviewee demonstrates the use of primitive weapons and talks about hunting and killing animals.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the cave drawings depicts a naked woman, though it's difficult to see (part of the drawing is out of camera range).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this Werner Herzog-directed 3-D documentary about 30,000-year-old cave drawings is rated G, it's generally aimed at a grown-up audience. Younger viewers may be fascinated by some parts and bored by others, though the gorgeous 3-D cinematography may help with short attention spans. Like Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World, the movie has very little iffy content: There's a brief demonstration of primitive weapons and a discussion of hunting animals, and one of the cave drawings depicts a naked woman, though the image is hard to make out.
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What's the Story?
In 1994, climbers in Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc in Southern France discovered a cave filled with rich cave drawings. Experts quickly determined that they dated back some 32,000 years and were the oldest such drawings in the world today. The enormous importance of the find was immediately apparent, and the cave was sealed off to everyone except experts. But acclaimed director Werner Herzog was given unprecedented access to film inside. Using 3-D for the first time, Herzog's meticulous, curious eye lovingly records the drawings and attempts to capture the myriad of thoughts and feelings they inspire.
Is It Any Good?
Herzog was the perfect person to ask to make this movie. Over the course of his career, he has continually demonstrated both a foolhardy bravery and an insatiable curiosity in his constant search for the elusive relationship between man and nature. This was the case in his early, classic films, as well as in his more recent, acclaimed documentaries.
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS is unquestionably an important document, since the cave itself is of enormous historical importance and since this film will be the only way most people will get to see inside of it. (And the drawings are hauntingly beautiful.) Yet the story's very limited structure doesn't allow Herzog to explore as much as he might like to. That said, when he does get to explore -- such as learning about primitive weapons, speaking to a scientist about his former circus career, or interviewing a perfume maker about the smells of the cave -- his personal vision shines through.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the use of 3-D in this movie. How is it different from most other 3-D movies you've seen?
What audience do you think this movie is intended for?
What are some of the things we can learn from the cave? What kind of emotional reactions do the drawings elicit? Can you imagine what life must have been like 30,000 or 40,000 years ago?
- In theaters: April 29, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2011
- Cast: Werner Herzog
- Director: Werner Herzog
- Studio: IFC Entertainment
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: History
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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