I have an issue with caves. I think it comes from touring a cave with my parents as a child. I'd been fascinated by the formations, the stalagtites, the waterfalls of stone. And then they turned the lights off, just to prove how dark a cave could be. That darkness haunts me.
I've been caving since then, always in tame caves that were mapped and known. I've sandwiched myself between rock walls in Calaveras County, poked around inside a mountain near Lake Shasta, and even duck-walked through a lava tube at Lava Beds National Park. I'm still afraid of caves.
So when the San Francisco International Film Festival schedule announced they would be showing a 3-D cave exploration movie, I had to have tickets. Cave of Forgotten Dreams did not disappoint.
I will never visit France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc caverns. They are locked behind a solid steel door because they hold an irreplaceable treasure: the oldest paintings in the world. 30,000 years ago, people adorned the undulating walls with running horses, dueling rhinos, and romantic lions. The pictures were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes.
Sometime in its history, the outside wall of the cave sheared off and sealed the entrance, perfectly preserving the artwork within. In 1994, several cavers rediscovered it. Now it is open -- only briefly -- to archaeolgists, art historians, and zoologists familiar with the Ice Age animals that roamed southern France. These experts speak to the filmmakers with wonder at their good fortune to have been chosen to study something so precious.
The filmmaking itself was both wondrous and irritating. One scientist demonstrates a bone flute similar to what might have been played in the cave (wow, cool!) but uses it to play The Star-Spangled Banner. This style of flute isn't echoed in the soundtrack, which tends to droning cello (which suited the sounds you might hear inside your head in a cave). No one ever explains what the prehistoric artists used to paint with: what kind of pigments,whether they used their fingers. I can probably look that up on the internet.
The 3D gave a great sense of depth to things in the cave, but the forced perspective meant you had to look where the camera was pointing. If something beautiful caught the corner of your eye, you couldn't turn to look at it, because it wouldn't come into focus. A three-dimensional computer-generated map appeared once in the film, labeled with the cave's topography but not with the placement of the paintings. I would have liked to refer to it more often.
The movie is beautiful and well worth seeing. I expect it will get distribution (if it hasn't already) after it finishes the festival circuit.
Here's the SFFiF listing: http://fest11.sffs.org/films/film_details.php?id=16
And a link to the trailer: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/caveofforgottendreams/
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