Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

G  |   |  Documentary, History  |  31 August 2011 (France)
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Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.



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Credited cast:
Himself / Narrator
Jean Clottes ...
Julien Monney ...
Jean-Michel Geneste ...
Michel Philippe ...
Gilles Tosello ...
Carole Fritz ...
Dominique Baffier ...
Valerie Feruglio ...
Nicholas Conard ...
Maria Malina ...
Wulf Hein ...
Maurice Maurin ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Valerie Milenka Repnau ...


In 1994, a group of scientists discovered a cave in Southern France perfectly preserved for over 20,000 years and containing the earliest known human paintings. Knowing the cultural significance that the Chauvet Cave holds, the French government immediately cut-off all access to it, save a few archaeologists and paleontologists. But documentary filmmaker, Werner Herzog, has been given limited access, and now we get to go inside examining beautiful artwork created by our ancient ancestors around 32,000 years ago. He asks questions to various historians and scientists about what these humans would have been like and trying to build a bridge from the past to the present. Written by napierslogs

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Release Date:

31 August 2011 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Cave of Forgotten Dreams  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$139,101 (USA) (29 April 2011)


$5,234,785 (USA) (19 August 2011)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger in his talk at the Berlinale Talents 2015, the first 20 minutes of the film are shot with two GoPro Hero cameras taped side-to-side (one upside down), because at the time of shooting no 3D-system small enough for the cave shoot was available. The rest of the film was shot on professional, higher-quality 2k 3D-cameras with follow-focus, when they later became available. See more »


Werner Herzog: In a forbidden recess of the cave, there's a footprint of an eight-year-old boy next to the footprint of a wolf. Did a hungry wolf stalk the boy? Or did they walk together as friends? Or were their tracks made thousands of years apart? We'll never know.
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Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.15 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Mesmerising, beautiful and compelling
13 April 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is the first Herzog feature I've seen on the big screen and I had read a few reviews on here before going. It's worth noting that I went to the Greenwich Picturehouse cinema in London. The screen, seating, sound and facilities were first class. I'd urge you to see this somewhere with top quality projection and sound.

This is a film about some French caves that contain paintings and markings made up to 32,000 years ago. Herzog documents the difficulties in viewing these astonishing sights and the further problems in filming them. As he seems to be able to do in any situation, Werner finds the most interesting, possibly obsessed and eccentric people to help illustrate the remarkable nature of this cave network.

The film is in 3D. A special 3D camera was made due to the constricted nature of the caves and the early part of the film was shot on a non-professional camera. A few reviews have complained of noise from low light dancing in 3D before their eyes. I saw none of this at all - in fact the 3D was really well handled and didn't detract from the subject matter at all. The undulation in the rocks are part of the paintings - the people that painted them used the contours as the shape of the things they drew. All that said, I don't know how well the 3D will translate to the small screen.

The sound is entrancing. The score is haunting and majestic, much like the French scenery we see and swoop over. A few people have complained of the heartbeat noise that is heard over the "silence" that we're told to experience but I felt it worked well, even on the second occurrence.

There are some odd moments, keeping to Herzog's style, including a crocodile-infested biosphere on the Rhone which Herzog uses to describe the human impact on the environment in the area around the caves. A few of the cave-investigating scientists are odd too, but I imagine the Bavarian director's questions often create an impression of abnormality in the sanest of subjects. Some of the interviews reminded me of The White Diamond or the friends of Tim Treadwell in Grizzly Man.

I'm delighted to have seen a Herzog film on the big screen and felt that this was the equal of "Encounters" or "Grizzly Man". It doesn't have the edgy feel of La Soufriere but that's to its credit. Go see it if you can but make sure it's at the best screen you can.

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