“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (2010) by Werner Herzog is surely the most high-profile film by the most recognized director in the festival program. Because the film is two years old already it must have been included mostly for the value of a name like Herzog, as there is no rhyme or reason why it fits in with the rest of the selection of new films. Though it should be said that there are two other films in the program from 2010: “Sena” by Asif Kapaida and “Argentinian Lesson” by Wojciech Staron. The relative randomness of these older films (notwithstanding the suspected logic behind selecting Herzog) speaks to the curatorial manner on display at Beldocs.
Herzog’s film was exhibited in 3D and it looked absolutely beautiful — regardless of the fact that it was projected in the wrong aspect ratio. We can chalk that up to one more missed opportunity at Beldocs, though the 3D glasses worked well and the effect of relief on screen combined with the high definition images made for a truly tactile experience.
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” documents Herzog’s guided exploration of a cavern recently discovered to contain the oldest frescoes known to man, dating back to the pre-historic period. As we explore the cave along with Herzog, sliding through its deep crevices and in-between its spiked stalagmites and stalactites, one realizes the worth of the 3D format. This film presents as otherworldly an experience as James Cameron’s Avatar with more lasting emotion and a meaningful human connection. I eagerly await another opportunity to watch a nature-based documentary in this format, perhaps even in IMAX.
Herzog’s loopy voice-over sometimes gets in the way of allowing the visual experience to wash over you but supposing the film went without it, we would likely have a nondescript television documentary for National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. That might not be such a bad thing, because the content of the documentary is truly awe-inspiring and needs nothing of aesthetic dressing up. Should one not be able to say this about all documentaries?