Mention Werner Herzog in connection with a documentary and raves follow.
The guy is a legend, and that's one reason why Battelle Film Club is showing his work. Sometimes, even legends do work that is less than legendary.
A good example is Herzog’s latest, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. He takes you to the Chauvet Caves in southern France. There, in 1994, hikers discovered a cave full of paintings that scientists estimate are 32,000 to 35,000 years old.
They are the oldest paintings known to humankind.
Other than the rare paleontologist or archaeologist, no one is allowed into the hermetically sealed cave. Herzog and his crew were given three short visits. Admittedly, the paintings are stunning. So is the cave. The shadows and lights cast by Herzog’s cameras give the place an eerie glow.
He’s shooting in a dead place; a tomb of sorts. It’s chock-full of mysteries that will never be solved. Those mysteries have Herzog in awe. He narrates his own movie and whispers most of his lines like he’s in fear of waking the dead.
During the narration you are treated to long, lingering shots of — considering when they were done — very sophisticated paintings of the horses, bison, lions and wooly rhinos that roamed southern France thousands of years ago.
A little goes a long way. After awhile Herzog’s dialogue gets repetitive and begins to drone. He gives you a tiny bit of information about the people that did these incredible paintings but not enough. You’re taken to exhibitions of other cultures that existed around the same time. He shows you their art. Experts talk a bit about it. A short interview is done with one of the scientists mapping out the cave.
And that’s about all.
Herzog doesn’t give you what you most want to know, and that’s more theory of the lifestyle and living situation of the people that painted the incredible pictures, and the climate of the time.
After about the 200th shot of the horse heads, the bison, lions and rhinos, it gets difficult to stay interested. And just when you are about to nod off from boredom, Herzog takes a left turn and heads to the river below the caves. You end up near a nuclear facility with the man rambling about albino crocodiles and wondering if they dream.
The original version of Cave of Forgotten Dreams is in 3D. The Battelle Film Club is showing you the two-dimensional version. And in the end, Herzog’s documentary ends up one-dimensional. His film has 45 minutes of very interesting footage and thoughts. Unfortunately, it’s sporadically mixed into a 90-minute movie.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated G. It plays at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 only at the Battelle Auditorium.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.