Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Yesterday I saw a 3D movie and it was gorgeous. This is how it came about.

My dear sister-in-law and her boyfriend were intending to take my kids to Canada’s Wonderland on Saturday but changed their plans due to an uncertain weather forecast. As it turned out, Saturday was a beautiful day, albeit warm, a perfect day for rides and waterpark. The new plan was to go on Sunday. We conferred Saturday evening and Sunday morning by phone and text because we woke up to a downpour.

Nonetheless my s-i-l stubbornly insisted on proceeding and her stubbornness paid off. The weather cleared, line-ups were short because other people’s trepidation kept them away. In the meantime A and I were free to have a (rare) day to ourselves.

The day didn’t start out well for me. I took some pictures with my new camera which were (again) not quite in focus. Googling the problem, I found that other people had had the same issues with the camera. Normal frustration turned to the kind of sadness I sometimes still feel despite all the healing I’ve done: that nothing I do will work out and that I don’t deserve it either.

Fortunately it didn’t prevail. I went to Downtown Camera, the store where I’d purchased the camera. There Deven kindly and patiently examined the camera. He took pictures with it, demonstrated how to use it, and left me feeling excited again about photography.

At the end of the day, A and I had a delectable dinner at Cafe 668, finished off with a dessert deservedly called Mango Heaven: mango fried in phyllo pastry topped with coconut cream and black sesame seeds. There was a hard rain while we finished dinner and a gentler rain that we walked home through. But what I really want to tell you about is the movie I saw yesterday afternoon.

From Downtown Camera, A and I walked to Tiff Bell Lightbox, where we saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams. This is a extraordinary 3D documentary about ancient cave paintings discovered in the south of France. The movie was filmed in 3D to give viewers a more accurate impression of the paintings on the curved walls of the cave than anyone could get from merely seeing the flat view of a normal film.These are the oldest known paintings, 32,000 years old, preserved for millenia because the cave entrance was closed by a rock fall. It was discovered again serendipitiously about 15 years ago.

The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. [Werner] Herzog received special permission from the French minister of culture to film inside the cave.Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had to film under heavy restrictions. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes that have had no contact with the exterior.Also, because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours per day.

You can get more technical information (and interesting it is) on the making of the film at the link above. The article on the Chauvet Caves is worth reading too:

Rather than depicting only the familiar animals of the hunt that predominate in Paleolithic cave art, i.e. horses, cattle, reindeer, etc., the walls of the Chauvet Cave include many predatory animals: Cave lions, panthers, bears, owls, and Cave Hyenas. Also pictured are rhinos…There are also two unidentifiable images that have a vaguely butterfly shape to them.

I swear those looked like angels. My reaction to the film: I was blown away. The beauty and artistry of these ancient paintings are as vivid and relevant today as they were in the days when Neanderthals were the painters’ neighbours. The paintings were seen by firelight. Their function is unknown. There were no galleries, no media coverage. They speak directly to me of what is most human and most profound in consciousness: the impulse to create, to find beauty, to interpret life by representing it in partnership with the viewer. This is why I write.

So here we are, those artists and I, separated by millenia, understanding each other despite differences that would surely make us alien to each other. I’ve got a computer, I’m talking to you over the internet, a virtual connection I don’t even understand. But I’m doing the same thing as those artists 32,000 years ago. I’m painting in a cave, often in the dark.

Today my editor sent me the page design for Web of Angels— and it’s beautiful. This is really happening now: many people are putting their hands to my book. The fire is lit. The paintings are coming to life.

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2 thoughts on “Cave of Forgotten Dreams

  1. What a beautiful post. I just love the idea that all artists are painting in the darkness – how true that is, and how inspiring.

  2. Yes, such a beautiful post, and particularly appreciated by me at a dark, frightening time in London. It makes me very happy to know that your third novel will soon be entering the world.

    I loved the film. The friends I went with, including blogger friend visiting from the US, also enjoyed it, but were more critical than I was of Herzog’s eccentric and personal approach. Very glad I saw it, anyway.

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