Famed German film director Werner Herzog was recently granted access to the Chauvet Caves, which he filmed for an soon-to-be released film on paleolithic art in France. The film entitled “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” focuses on the early peoples of France and the earliest creations of human art.
Herzog granted an interview to Archaeology Magazine in which he discussed the unique challenges of filming the site as well as the privilege of being trusted with its memorial.
ARCHAEOLOGY: There are hundreds of ancient sites in the world that have really fascinating artwork. What was it that attracted you to Chauvet?
WERNER HERZOG: It is one of the greatest and most sensational discoveries in human culture and, of course, what is so fascinating is that it was preserved as a perfect time capsule for 20,000 years. The quality of the art, which is from a time so far, so deep back in history, is stunning. It’s not that we have what people might call the primitive beginnings of painting and art. It is right there as if it had burst on the scene fully accomplished. That is the astonishing thing, to understand that the modern human soul somehow awakened. It is not a long slumber and a slow, slow, slow awakening. I think it was a fairly sudden awakening. But when I say “sudden” it may have gone over 20,000 years or so. Time does not factor in when you go back into such deep prehistory.
The film was recorded and produced in 3D, a new technique for Herzog and premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Read the full interview in this Archaeology Magazine article and listen to the audio from the interview here.