Prehistoric Art Meets 3-D Technology

Werner Herzog, Peter Zeitlinger and Wulf Hein filming “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams”

Popcorn and Coca-Cola are old-school. The new fad of today’s generation is 3-D technology, where the action not only takes place on screen, but also fills the entire room with burning trains and flying owls. Although 3-D films already existed back in the 1950s, it is not until recent years that this technology has increasingly gained popularity. James Cameron’s Avatar was touted as a stereoscopic breakthrough for 3-D cinematography back in 2009.

The cave of Chauvet

It was only a matter of time before cinematographers redefined the boundaries of modern filmmaking. In the spring of 2010, German Director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Nosferatu) was allowed into the cave of Chauvet, France, to film his documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”. Discovered in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet and two of his friends, the cave represents one of the oldest testimonies of rock paintings and engravings dating back some 32,000 years. For the very first time ever since they were created, the still and contemplative images of rhinos, bison, mammoths and lions are brought back to life by 3-D technology.

A delicate environment

Many filmmakers have failed in the attempt to gain access to the cave, but Mr. Herzog succeeded and obtained permission to shoot inside the cave walls facing severe restrictions: the crew was allowed to shoot no more than four hours a day. Although the rock art has survived for thousands of years, the charcoal paintings and engravings remain highly fragile from the point of view of art conservation. Anyone entering is required to wear appropriate suits and shoes that have not been contaminated by the exterior to minimize biological or chemical exchange with the cavity. A few years back, a climatological and biochemical surveillance system was installed to regulate the hygrometry and temperature inside the cave in order to control bacteriological growth.

Bringing rock art back to life

As challenging as the filming on the unusual set might have been, the end result is an impressive recollection of prehistoric artwork like it has never been experienced before. Judith Thurman (New Yorker) explained to the New York Times that she was very much impressed by “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”. According to Mrs. Thurman, Werner Herzog was able to recreate both depth and movement in the portrayed animals and described his use of 3-D technology as “a stroke of brilliance”. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” opens November 3rd in Germany – with or without popcorn and Coca-Cola.

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One response to “Prehistoric Art Meets 3-D Technology

  1. Fascinating story, well analysed in terms of the growing link between a scientific audience and “the others”. I’ll definitely be one of the flying owls attending the opening of the film in November 2011. MTD

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