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Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by Erik Nelson, Adrienne Ciuffo[1]
Narrated by Werner Herzog
Music by Ernst Reijseger
Cinematography Peter Zeitlinger[1]
Editing by Joe Bini, Maya Hawke[1]
Release date(s) September 13, 2010 (2010-09-13)(TIFF)
Running time 89 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary film about the Chauvet Cave. The film is directed by Werner Herzog, and is his first 3-D film. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.[3] and consists of footage filmed inside the cave, as well as interviews with scientists and historians.[4] The film also includes footage of the nearby Pont d'Arc natural bridge.[1]



Herzog's interest in the Chauvet cave was prompted by Judith Thurman's New Yorker article First Impressions.[1] Thurman is listed as one of the co-producers of the film.

The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. Herzog received special permission from the French minister of culture to film inside the cave.[4] Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had heavy restrictions while filming inside the cave. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes which have had no contact with the exterior.[5] Because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours at a time.[2]

Herzog was allowed to have only three people with him in the cave: the cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, a sound recorder, and an assistant. Herzog himself worked the lights.[4] The crew was only allowed to use battery powered[2] equipment which they could carry into the cave themselves,[4] and used only lights which did not give off any excess heat.[1] The 3-D cameras were custom-built for the production, and were often assembled inside the cave itself.[4] Herzog was allowed six shooting days of four hours each inside the cave.[4] The crew could not touch any part of the wall or floor of the cave, and were confined to a 2-foot -wide (0.61 m) walkway.[4]

Before production of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog was skeptical of the artistic value of 3-D filmmaking, and had only seen one 3-D film (James Cameron's Avatar). Herzog still believes that 3-D is not suited for general use in cinema, but used it in Cave to help "capture the intentions of the painters", who incorporated the subtle bulges and contours of the wall into their art.[4] After the production, Herzog stated that he had no plans to ever use 3-D again.[4]


The film had its debut on Monday, September 13, 2010, at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was finished at the last minute, with only 30 minutes of footage completed on the Wednesday before its showing.[4] It was the first 3-D film to screen at the festival's Bell Lightbox theatre,[4] and the film projectors jammed only 5 minutes from the end, interrupting its debut.[6]

Two days later, IFC Films announced that it had secured the rights to all US distribution of the film in a "mid-six-figure deal".[7] Television rights had already been owned by the History Channel, who partially financed the film's production.[4]


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