The only time I will likely wish I had 3-D capability at home is when I was watching the astonishing documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog’s meditation on art, history, mortality, and what he called “One of the greatest discoveries in the history of human culture.”
Three explorers found a cave along the banks of the Ardeche River in France in 1994, and thanks to an eons-old landslide which sealed the entrance, the cave paintings within have been perfectly preserved since they were created over 32,000 years ago. The luminous vivacity of the long-extinct animals painted on the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave’s walls is staggering. On one wall, a series of hand prints is more contemporary than a Damian Hirst dot painting, with the crooked pinkie of the artist making him (or her) palpably real. Equally dazzling are the endless limestone formations that grew only after the cave was sealed, glittering calcite sculptures as sinuous as a snake and as pearlescent as a highly polished necklace of the most sumptuous jade.
As I was watching I couldn’t help wonder what explanation Creationists could come up with to explain how carbon dating placed the artwork at 32,000 years of age with such accuracy, or how the 9,000-foot-thick glacier that covered the landscape at the time would have finally melted and receded, or why the wooly mammoth and the cave bear (whose tracks and preserved skeletons are visible in the cave) and the hairy rhinoceroses disappeared from our planet.
Herzog’s stellar eccentricities of content and uniquely flat delivery of the narration, coupled with an Ernst Reijseger score that is at times as luminous as the art and then intrusively precious the next, lulled me into a state of near-perfect bliss. The animals depicted come alive as Herzog’s camera slides over them in awe, the lighting as flickering (due to strict restrictions on equipment and limited hours in the cave to protect the art from carbon dioxide) as the Paleolithic torches must have been when the images were first drawn, perfectly shaped on the smooth curving walls of the cave. The 3-D would have made them pop into consciousness even more, I could tell. But no matter—this film is available to watch instantly on Netflix, and if you have 90 minutes to spare it is the perfect way to bring a celebration of artistic creation into your memory as the year draws to an end.
If this piques your interest, read this http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/september-2011/article/revisiting-the-chauvet-cave and then search online for more.