Cave of Forgotten Dreams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Cave of forgotten dreams poster.jpg
Directed byWerner Herzog
Written byWerner Herzog
Produced byErik Nelson
Adrienne Ciuffo[1]
Dave Harding
Julian Hobbs
David McKillop
Narrated byWerner Herzog
CinematographyPeter Zeitlinger[1]
Edited byJoe Bini
Maya Hawke[1]
Music byErnst Reijseger
Distributed byIFC Films
Sundance Selects
Release dates
  • 13 September 2010 (2010-09-13) (TIFF)
  • 25 March 2011 (2011-03-25) (United Kingdom)
  • 29 April 2011 (2011-04-29) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes[2]
United States
United Kingdom
Box office$6,467,348[3]

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 2010 3D documentary film by Werner Herzog about the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, which contains some of the oldest human-painted images yet discovered. Some of them were crafted around 32,000 years ago.[4][5] The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival[6] and consists of images from inside the cave as well as interviews with various scientists and historians.[7] The film also includes footage of the nearby Pont d'Arc natural bridge.[1]


Herzog's interest in the Chauvet cave was prompted by Judith Thurman's New Yorker article "First Impressions".[8] Thurman is listed as one of the co-producers of the film.

The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. Herzog received special permission from the French Minister of Culture to film inside the cave.[7] Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had to film under heavy restrictions. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes that have had no contact with the exterior.[9] Also, because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours per day.[2]

Herzog was allowed to have only three people with him in the cave: the cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, a sound recordist (Eric Spitzer-Marlyn), and an assistant. Herzog himself worked the lights.[7] The crew was allowed to use only battery-powered[2] equipment they could carry into the cave themselves,[7] and only lights that gave off no excess heat.[1] The 3-D cameras were custom-built for the production, and were often assembled inside the cave itself.[7] Herzog was allowed six shooting days of four hours each.[7] The crew could not touch any part of the cave's wall or floor, and were confined to a 2-foot-wide (0.61 m) walkway.[7]

The production encountered several technical difficulties in working with the 3-D cameras in a documentary setting. At the time of production, 3-D films were typically shot on stages with heavy use of digital manipulation. Often, foreground and background elements would be shot separately and digitally composited into the finished shot. Techniques for 3-D filmmaking in natural environments with a single camera and no compositing were largely undeveloped, and had to be worked out experimentally by the crew in post-production.[10]

Before production of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog was skeptical of the artistic value of 3-D filmmaking, and had only seen one 3-D film (James Cameron's Avatar). Herzog still believes that 3-D is not suited for general use in cinema, but used it in Cave to help "capture the intentions of the painters", who incorporated the wall's subtle bulges and contours into their art.[7] The idea to use a 3-D camera for the film was first suggested by Zeitlinger, who had imagined before ever entering the cave that 3-D might be appropriate to capture the contours of the walls. Herzog dismissed the idea, believing 3-D to be (in Zeitlinger's words) "a gimmick of the commercial cinema". After visiting the cave, however, Herzog immediately decided that the film must be shot in 3-D.[10] After the production, Herzog stated that he had no plans to use 3-D again.[7]


The film had its debut on 13 September 2010, at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was finished at the last minute, with only 30 minutes of footage completed on the Wednesday before its showing.[7] It was the first 3-D film to screen at the festival's Bell Lightbox theatre,[7] and the digital projectors jammed only five minutes from the end, interrupting its debut.[11]

Two days later, IFC Films announced that it had secured the rights to all US distribution of the film in a "mid-six-figure deal".[12] Television rights had already been owned by the History Channel, who partially financed the film's production.[7]

After the film's premiere, Herzog was asked why the French Ministry of Culture, who sponsored the film, did not require its premiere to be in France. Herzog replied, "They didn't know it was finished".[13]

In January 2011, a trailer for Cave was released which advertised a release date of Spring 2011.[14] It premiered in cinemas in the United Kingdom on 25 March 2011. Also in March a second trailer was released for US distribution, which announced a US release date of 29 April 2011.[15]

The film opened on 29 April 2011, shown in the US in five theaters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The ticket sales averaged $25,500 per theater for the opening weekend, which was Herzog's best-ever per theater opening,[16] and the highest per theater average of any film in the US for the weekend.[17]

As of 12 June 2011, the film had grossed $6.4 million, making it the highest-grossing independently released documentary of 2011, earning over 10 times more than the second-place film, The Last Lions.[18]


The film's reception was positive. It holds a 96% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 128 reviews,[19] as well as metacritic score of 86 on the Metacritic, based on 34 reviews.[20]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Group Award Result
2011 New York Film Critics Circle[21] Best Documentary Won
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Documentary Won
Chicago Film Critics Association[22] Best Documentary Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[23] Best Documentary Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association[24] Best Documentary Nominated
New York Film Critics Online[25] Best Documentary Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Non-Fiction Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association[26] Best Documentary Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[27] Best Documentary Won
2012 Online Film Critics Society[28] Best Documentary Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Documentary Won
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Documentary Won
National Society of Film Critics[29] Best Nonfiction Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "2010 Films — Cave of Forgotten Dreams". Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Chang, Justin (14 September 2010). "Cave of Forgotten Dreams". Variety.
  3. ^ Cave of Forgotten Dreams at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 124. ISBN 978-1908215017.
  5. ^ Rohter, Larry (22 April 2011). "Werner Herzog's 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams,' Filmed in Chauvet Cave". The New York Times.
  6. ^ VanAirsdale, S.T. (4 August 2010). "Werner Herzog's 3D Cave Journey Leads Docs Premiering at TIFF". Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "The Big Picture". Los Angeles Times. 13 September 2010.
  8. ^ Thurman, Judith (16 June 2008). "First Impressions. What does the world's oldest art say about us?". The New Yorker.
  9. ^ "La Grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc". La grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc - La Grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc.
  10. ^ a b Curtis, Lee (13 June 2011). "Meet The Cinematographer Who Pushed Werner Herzog to the Third Dimension". Sabotage Times. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Projector snag hits TIFF screening". Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  12. ^ Kilday, Gregg (14 October 2010). "IFC Films buys Werner Herzog doc 'Cave'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  13. ^ D'Arcy, David (30 April 2011). "The Cabinet of Werner Herzog". artinfo. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  14. ^ Lyus, Jon (9 January 2011). "Trailer for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog's first 3D film, Appears". Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Werner Herzog's 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' Theatrical Trailer". Archived from the original on 19 March 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  16. ^ Knegt, Peter (1 May 2011). "Box Office: 3-D 'Dreams' Gives Werner Herzog His Best Debut". Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Weekend Box Office, April 29 – May 1, 2011". 1 May 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  18. ^ Kaufman, Amy (19 June 2011). "'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' becomes highest-grossing independently released documentary of 2011". Los Angeles Times Blog. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  19. ^ "Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  20. ^ "Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Metacritic". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  21. ^ "New York Film Critics Circle". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  22. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Association". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  23. ^ "San Diego Film Critics Society". Archived from the original on 25 January 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  24. ^ Murray, Rebecca. "2012 Critics' Choice Movie Awards: The Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  25. ^ "New York Film Critics Online". Reuters. 11 December 2011. Archived from the original on 9 January 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Los Angeles Film Critics Association". Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  27. ^ "The Washington DC Area Film Critics Association". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  28. ^ "Online Film Critics Society". Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  29. ^ "National Society of Film Critics". Retrieved 7 January 2012.

External links[edit]