User Score
6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 43 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 43
  2. Negative: 5 out of 43

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  1. May 19, 2011
    9
    An incredible film. It doesn't get a perfect score from me because of the relative zaniness of the 'Postscript', but it's the best use of 3D since Avatar. Truly awe-inspiring to see such unspoiled cave panels with art work created 35 - 40,000 years ago. To think that humans were thinking, dreaming, and creating like we do that long ago is immense. It stuck with me for a full day after seeing it... Expand
  2. Dec 17, 2011
    6
    Loved the introduction to the subject, but found Herzog a bit tiresome. The interviews were also quaint and full of cliche. Recommend sticking it out till the end however because the artwork is awe inspiring.
  3. May 22, 2011
    7
    It is extremely hard to review a documentary like this. One learns a lot but is really unable to be overwhelmed due to the availability of the cave I thought the minimalist approach here did not suffice to make a full length film.Thus, I found myself desiring more when maybe more is not available.
  4. Dec 17, 2011
    0
    As usual, Herzog ruins whatever he puts his hands on. His narrative, with his spaced out voice, is boring, lifeless and depressing. At the very least, if you show a 'secret'. don't show the human made steel door that locks the secret in, because that kills off all illusion right away. The documentary is just like his movies, weird, drawn out, and basically unwatchable. To constantly stare at people who are nailed to the ground, speechless and in awe, becomes rather nauseating quickly. Herzog always seems like someone who belongs locked up in a Bhuddist monastery, he is clearly looking for something that can usually only be seen and found through the use of drugs. In short, simply horrible. Please do not let this man near a camera, ever again. Collapse
  5. Nov 17, 2012
    9
    Ah, yes. 3D movies. Leave it to acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog, master of such cinematic spectacles as Fitzcarraldo and Rescue Dawn, as well as somber, meditative pieces like Strozek and Grizzly Man, to find the true potential of the third dimension. Granted unprecedented (yet still severely limited) access to the famous Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in southern France, which contains the oldest cave paintings to have been discovered to date and have only been seen by select members of the scientific and archeological field, Herzog uses a 3-D camera to invite the audience to see what he himself saw, to witness every crack and crevice in the wall, and to feel the urge to reach out and touch what hasn Expand
  6. Jun 30, 2011
    9
    I saw this movie in 2D and its the first time I wished for 3D. The cave paintings are stunning and so overwhelming that this movie gets a 9. Unfortunately, Herzog gets in the way with his obtuse commentary and heavy handed "postscript." The music is also a bit off-putting, but really...go see this movie for the cave paintings. You will likely never see anything like it again.
  7. May 17, 2011
    10
    More than 30,000 years ago, our human ancestors entered the Chauvet Cave in southern France and, for reasons unknown but pondered about for millennia, they created cave paintings. These are the oldest known paintings to exist. The pictures depict magnificent animals, including lions, horses, rhinos, and extinct cave bears and panthers. The soft cave floor is littered with bones (100% of them are from animals) including many well preserved skulls of the extinct cave bear which would have spent much time in such caves. Beautiful patterns have emerged after thousands of years of slow dripping water and the ambiance is only enhanced by the drastic shift from large chambers with high ceilings to tight spaces with almost no room to move. The cave was first explored in 1994 and due to the fact that it had been sealed by a long ago rock collapse, it was most likely the first time in over 20,000 years anyone had entered the cave.

    Werner Herzog has a distinct style, and anyone who has seen some of his films will recognize immediately that this is a Herzog film. As in a favorite film of mine, Grizzly Man, he uses wonderful shots of his subject spliced with entertaining interviews by key figures. He expounds upon the bigger questions such as 'why' did people draw these and what could it have meant in a broader scheme of humanity. Experts are interviewed in various fields of science and the humanities who all bring unique perspectives to the subject matter. There are wonderful asides that touch on similar cave findings, such as bone fragments turned into flute-like instruments, signaling the importance of not just art but music to people throughout time. Anecdotes about the history of the region including the large glaciers which covered the area before melting add a nice touch.

    Herzog and his team were hindered greatly by the French government (justifiably) who would only allow filming under the most strict guidelines. Just a crew of 4, shooting for 4 hours per day, for just one week and they were only allowed a few small, battery run lights, all the while confined 100% of the time to a small, 2 foot wide walkway built throughout the cave which no one is allowed to leave for fear of tampering with the well preserved cave. Herzog filmed in 3D which, for the first time in my life, I can say was absolutely the perfect solution to portraying the amazing cave in its entirety. The paintings are made throughout the cave on contoured walls which, it would seem, were purposely put there so as to add to the dimensions and the storytelling of the paintings. Herzog draws a wonderful parallel to what it must have looked like by torchlight 30,000 years ago. There is even evidence that some of the paintings have etchings around them to create depth. Several paintings are drawn with multiple legs and horns, clearly attempting to depict movement among the animals. There is a unique piece of wall covered in red hand prints. Interestingly, there is a distinct defect in the print of the little finger on one of the hands, and this hand can be traced to multiple red hand prints throughout the cave, meaning the team is able to trace the path of a single individual from so many thousands of years ago.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the film comes from an area of the cave which cannot be fully seen from the walkway. A partial view of one of only 2 paintings in the cave which depict some form of the human body. It appears to be the lower body of a woman with the head of a bullish creature. Herzog is eventually allowed to place a camera on a long crane to get a better view. It is not so much the shot of the painting that is astounding as is the questions that are raised by such figures. What were our ancestors thinking when they drew these paintings of animals, and more specifically, when they drew this painting of half woman half beast? What did they believe about the world and why were they so interested in recording visually what they saw around them? This is a beautiful film and one enhanced largely via 3D technology.
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  8. May 29, 2011
    4
    Interesting movie, but way way too long. This could have easily been a fascinating 45 minute documentary. The air gets a little thin when one is in a cave too long!
  9. Jun 1, 2011
    4
    Fascinating visuals and stunning artwork. Even seeing them 20 times in the film, the images don't fail to amaze and delight. The zum-zum music and repetitive metaphysical speculations do, though. The film is way too long, and the postscript is truly bizarre. It detracts from the overall experience.
  10. j30
    Feb 9, 2012
    8
    One of the things I really like about the film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," is Werner Herzog puts his soul into each frame. You can really tell the Chauvet caves made a huge impression on him in some spiritual way, as did the archaeologists who worked therein. A compelling documentary.
  11. Aug 13, 2011
    3
    The best way I could describe this movie is that it's an interesting glimpse at something that most people will never have access to, that required about 10 minutes of film, but was unfortunately produced into a full length film. The film we get is padded-out with commentary and repeat after repeat of the same shots of the cave paintings, that it manages to kill what made it interesting to start with. Awful music, no real direction, and an unnecessary postscript made me wish that I'd only watched the trailer. Expand
  12. Oct 18, 2011
    4
    Fascinating and beautiful, but an hour and a half movie? Please! It was so LONG! We were forced to see the same images over, and over, and over, and over. How many times can a camera sweep past the same image before we scream "Enough already, UNCLE" I get it, I get it, the cave has been sealed off for 20,000 years and we should feel privileged to be able to see the insides of it, but this should have been an 8-minute film that is shown in a museum as guests are strolling about at an exhibit. An exhibit, mind you, where the film was included with your museum's entrance fee. At least then you could stop and watch the images for a couple of minutes, say "Wow" and "Beautiful", and then move on without the empty feeling I had after paying to see it in the theatre. The end of the film is really bizarre and should be studied in film schools. I'm still trying to decipher it's meaning. Expand
  13. Sep 24, 2011
    1
    Three stars for the 3D visual experience, zero stars for the content. It is a truly amazing experience to have the brief glimpse into some of what was going on in the human mind some 30 â
  14. Oct 2, 2011
    10
    I was breathless at some of the sights in this movie...it was a 3D screening and, in addition to my 3d glasses, I admit I had a few glasses of wine before...but this is more gold from Herzog. It seemed the theatre was taking on a whole new purpose as we were all transported and given access to the cave via his vision. Thank you!
  15. Jan 3, 2013
    10
    Yet another inspired talk-o-mentary by master Herzog. This time about a 32 000-year window into the past of our ancestors. Like nothing out there. The footage itself musto be on its way to the UNESCO. Must-see.
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. 88
    It is our tour guide that makes Cave of Forgotten Dreams an often thrilling experience. His producer, Erik Nelson, has joked Herzog is the first filmmaker to use 3-D for good, instead of evil. There is no question that the technology enhances our visit, giving perspective and shape to the jagged Chauvet Cave – an open mouth the size of a football field.
  2. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Jun 5, 2011
    88
    If you're looking for a filmmaker to document, for all of humanity, "one of the greatest discoveries in the history of human culture," the great Werner Herzog is your guy.
  3. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    May 19, 2011
    88
    He (Herzog) emerged with a breathtaking tour of art that, in its formal sophistication, dynamism and rhythmic lines, looks as bold and new as Cezanne's work must have looked in the 1860s.