What makes this discovery extraordinary are the rock paintings found inside, also dating from 35 thousand years ago at least. These pictorial creations constitute a treasure for humanity, firmly preserved by the French government. The opening of a replica of the grotto has been planned for 2014.
Due to the conditions of the cave, visits are not allowed as they could damage the works that have been found and are now studied by a team of experts paying attention to the last details of their work and to the protection of the site.
The German director managed to get a special and probably one-time only authorization to gain access to the cave with a film crew, in which they had to move along on metal rails set up for the floor protection, to work with minimum lighting and only for an hour daily, scientists and attendants staying with them all the time during the 4 weeks of shooting.
On a technical level, the movie is perfect and implacable. The director of “Fitzcarraldo” or “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” puts all his skills to use to make the most of the “chiaroscuro” as well as the contrasts in the rock that turn the drawings into tridimensional creations. For this ancestral visual effect not to disappear with the bidimensional vision, the film has been shot in 3-D which gives the impression of entering this prehistoric sanctuary.
The scientist’s gentleness, the pleasure of witnessing a thousand year old silence inside the cave, the shock produced by the paintings’ beauty, the careful rhythm chosen by the German narrator and the touching music especially composed by Ernst Reijseger, turn this movie into a masterpiece.
Nevertheless, the spectacular and instructive part is being reduced when we take a more metaphysical and alert look on the real conception of this space, obviously a place where rites were performed and where the homo sapiens’ artistic and sacred inspiration was displayed, in the times when he was still living along side Neanderthal man.
Although there is no evidence that they were living in the cave, men used to go there to accomplish their rituals and then left the place to give way to the animals they were painting: cave-bears basically, but also lions, mammoths, hyenas, rhinoceroses, various deer, horses, bison, and birds as well.
The startling aspect of the setting, which can only be entered passing through an arch drilled in the stone, is fascinating and is an invitation to accede to other places and other times.
The scientists, speaking with a charming familiarity, relate the changes occurring whilst entering the cave. They comment the obsessive beauty, the captivating smell, the startling silence in the 8000 square meters that the cave occupies.
They refer to the principles of permeability and fluidity that allowed the homo sapiens to turn into a real homo spiritualis, able to understand and to identify to his surroundings, the animals, the plants, the entire life. This movie certifies that the human being has always been looking for this communion, this universal connection with the world that surrounds him.
In these times of great partition, Werner Herzog allows us to get closer to a world of complementarities, of deep inspections, strong deference and thrilling researches: those of the scientists but also our own, and actually, those of this human being who left a trace of his dreams on these rock walls, more than 30 000 years ago.
**La grotte des rêves perdus** was premièred in France, on the 31st of August this year.
*Translated from Spanish by Pauline Goetghebeur*