Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 


The interior of the Chauvet Cave in southern France houses the world's oldest cave paintings, hundreds in number, which were discovered in 1994. In this subterranean world of the 32,000-year-old artworks - created at a time when Neanderthals were roaming around as were cave bears - we come face to face with pristine and astonishingly realistic drawings of horses, rinos, cattle and ice-age lions, which for the briefest second come alive in the torchlight as we learn more about Paleolithic art and its creators.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What is astonishing about the drawings discovered in the Chauvet Caves (named after the Frenchman who discovered them) in southern France is that they look much like the drawings of competent contemporary art students perhaps. They would not be remarkable were they not the work of people who lived in some sort of parallel with Neanderthal man over 32,000 years ago - according to carbon dating. Well, except for one thing: they depict a variety of animals of whom some are no longer around, such as the mane-less cave lion and the giant trunked mammoth-like creature. We can safely assume that these images are representations of animals they observed, not taken from photographs.

One of the most striking set of drawings is of four horses, their heads in staggered profile, each beautifully detailed an articulated. A fight between two rhinos is also arresting, as are many images of various four legged animals as if in motion, like the buffalo with eight legs to imply movement - the earliest 'moving picture' as it were.

Werner Herzog narrates the film, which is captured in 3D just to make it even more difficult, given that the cave is physically restricting. His accented narration talks about the spiritual connections of the artwork as well as providing some information about the cave itself, a massive network with a tiny entrance.

The entrance these days is via a steel door and security is tight. But when discovered, the entrance was barely wide enough to let Monsieur Chauvet through. The narrated information is expanded by interviews with archeologists and other scientists, who explain the significance of the find. We are also informed about a broader range of Paleolithic art.

With its home movie feel - despite the 3D (which is quite effective in bringing details up close) - the film suffers from an over-anxious score; it's intrusive and often resorts to a too obvious pitch for spiritual considerations. It's the film's only real flaw, and could be minimised by simply re-mixing the soundtrack to reduce the volume of the music.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(Canada/US/France/Germany/UK, 2010)

CAST: Documentary

PRODUCER: Adrienne Ciufo, Erik Nelson

DIRECTOR: Werner Herzog

SCRIPT: Werner Herzog


EDITOR: Joe Bini, Maya Hawke

MUSIC: Ernst Reijseger

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 22, 2011

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020