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Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” opens in theaters across the U.S. this weekend, and reveals in eye-opening 3D the dark, undulating, awe-inspiring interior of France’s Chauvet Cave, decorated by humans some 32,000 years ago with lifelike images of the animals with whom they shared the landscape. It reveals the oldest known figurative paintings in the world.
Photos of the highly restricted cave have been available since shortly after its discovery in 1994, but even being familiar with them cannot prepare you for the otherworldly experience of being immersed in the paintings and the cave itself in three dimensions.
Despite the vast amount of time that has passed since their creation, Herzog found the apparent freshness of the paintings to be one of the most stunning things about working with them up close. “It’s as if you were disturbing people right in the middle of their work,” he said. If we were disturbing them at that time, we’d all look a heck of a lot younger. This cave was painted long before the Roman Empire, the Pyramids of Egypt, or the life of the Ice Man. Think the paintings of Lascaux are old? They are only as old now as Chauvet’s were when Lascaux itself was painted.