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Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)


Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 127
Fresh: 122
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: Hauntingly filmed and brimming with Herzog's infectious enthusiasm, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a fascinating triumph.

Average Rating: 8.5/10
Reviews Counted: 33
Fresh: 33
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: Hauntingly filmed and brimming with Herzog's infectious enthusiasm, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a fascinating triumph.


Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 11,636



Movie Info

Cave of Forgotten Dreams follows an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. It's an unforgettable cinematic experience that provides a unique glimpse of the pristine artwork dating back to human hands over 30,000 years ago - almost twice as old as any previous discovery. -- (c) IFC Films

Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Nov 29, 2011
Box Office:
IFC Films - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Cave of Forgotten Dreams

All Critics (129) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (122) | Rotten (5) | DVD (6)

It is our tour guide that makes Cave of Forgotten Dreams an often thrilling experience.

Full Review… | July 8, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

The overall effect, aided by Ernst Reijseger's score of rising choral harmonies and lush strings, is rapturous.

Full Review… | July 7, 2011
Toronto Star
Top Critic

To call "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" a great movie isn't just an understatement, it's a wildly inaccurate way to describe an experience that, in its immersive sensory pleasures and climactic journey of discovery, more closely resembles an ecstatic trance.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
Washington Post
Top Critic

This is something more than a movie; it's a testament - and re-creation - of rapture.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Art history lessons don't get much better: "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" presents the world's oldest paintings captured by one of film's great visionaries.

Full Review… | May 5, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

What we get from this film: a specific and personal sense that 32,000-year-old artists, with all their ideas and passions, were not, fundamentally, that different from us.

Full Review… | May 5, 2011
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Why shoot a documentary about cave paintings in 3D? Is Werner Herzog crazy? The answer to the second question has always been, "quite possibly," but the answer to the first becomes apparent the first time he trains his camera on the cave walls.

Full Review… | July 15, 2014

Even those who have found Herzog's work lacking in the past will have a hard time writing off Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It's a superb film.

Full Review… | November 11, 2013
We Got This Covered

Fascinating artworks by early man, sure, but they're let down by Herzog's long, rambling soliloquies about the history of homosapiens, albino crocodiles, and Baywatch... These sequences would have been right at home in a 45-minute IMAX film.

Full Review… | September 8, 2013

Another lovely stanza in the epic poem of humanity that Herzog has been writing for half a century.

Full Review… | January 8, 2013
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Es indudable la capacidad del director por intentar, a través de la cámara, lo mismo que intentaron aquellos hombres y mujeres del Paleolítico unos 30.000 años atrás: comunicarse, expresar sentimientos y emociones, crear belleza.

Full Review… | April 23, 2012
Uruguay Total

... captures the space, the texture, the quality of color of these ghost-like paintings, like shadows of the past captured on the cave walls.

Full Review… | November 30, 2011

Confirmation, if any was needed, that culture and civilization existed 25,000 years ago and that we have gone downhill since the introduction of private property.

Full Review… | November 29, 2011

These images of what the world was increase my sense of awe at what the world is.

Full Review… | November 25, 2011
Looking Closer

Werner Herzog's exploration of the miraculous Chauvel Cave comes with it evidence that human kind is indeed wired to believe in the hypnotic and poignant Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Full Review… | October 2, 2011
Matt's Movie Reviews

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is one of Herzog's most memorable films. Its subject, the 32,000-year-old drawings on the wall of the Chauvet Cave in southern France, is so astonishing that even Herzog's amiable sidetracks can't destroy the wonder.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

There is nothing gimmicky about Herzog's use of 3D in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The depth of field afforded by the 3D format gives the viewer an uncanny spatial awareness of the site.

Full Review… | September 22, 2011
Herald Sun (Australia)

Herzog has used the 3D process with tremendous creativity to make this very beautiful film.

Full Review… | September 21, 2011
At the Movies (Australia)

This is what 3-D was made for, puncturing the proscenium and taking us somewhere ''not yet offended''.

Full Review… | September 21, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald

Making superb use of the 3-D, and marked by Werner Herzog's idiosyncratic sensibilities, this contains enough captivating moments to make it a must-see.

Full Review… | September 21, 2011
FILMINK (Australia)

What is astonishing about the (32,000 year old) drawings discovered in the Chauvet Caves ... in southern France is that they look much like the drawings of competent contemporary art students

Full Review… | September 18, 2011
Urban Cinefile

It's hard not to think of Han Solo's neck unnaturally shifting to dodge a CG bullet as French archaeologists gape in awe at the beautiful untouched works created by Homo sapiens past

Full Review… | September 12, 2011

To puzzle over these questions with Herzog makes for a singular and rapturous viewing experience.

Full Review… | September 9, 2011
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

This nature and art documentary by Werner Herzog delivers an astonishingly privileged look at a subterranean time capsule.

Full Review… | August 13, 2011
Cinema Autopsy

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 30,000-year leap of faith. Werner Herzog, after tiptoeing through the transforming cave, says, "Nothing is real. Nothing is certain." As an artist, he seems to like it that way.

Full Review… | August 5, 2011

...might have been a worthy film at 60 minutes long, but then it wouldn't have been a Herzog film. The difference is the difference between a film about art, and a film that is art.

Full Review… | July 24, 2011
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Audience Reviews for Cave of Forgotten Dreams


Director Werner Herzog has been making some exceptionally great documentary films lately, and this foray into a long forgotten cave in France is no exception. Much of the film relies on showing the audience what it takes to get into the cave, which is cordoned off from the viewing public to keep out mold and particles that could destroy the cave paintings. (Which are the oldest in the known world.) In the last twenty minutes of the documentary we get to see all the paintings up close, without narration, and only simple music to soothe and calm. The film played extensively in the IMAX theaters in 3D, and the effects of that would probably have been transient. Still, without that glorious illusion the paintings still look beautiful, as is the way they are filmed. We learn the history of them before we see many of them, so their meaning is all the more fluid and histrionic, making the spectacle into one unmatched in modern cinema.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

It is unfortunate that the Chauvet Cave in France is nearly inaccessible, as it is home to the oldest cave drawings in the world. Fortunately, the best possible choice for a documentarian on the cave was given unprecedented access to embark on an expedition to film what is hidden down there.

The film was shot on a strict set of rules, and in 3D. I didn't unfortunately get to see it this way, but I could tell that it was used effectively given how the paintings are done on the curves of the cave walls instead of flat canvases. The film is actually really straightforward and seems like a typical documentary. Of course, it's not completely that way, as Herzog's unmistakable voice and way of speaking dominate the proceedings, but it really is pretty basic stuff. Granted, it's still a good film, despite this, and its important due to the subject matter, but it doesn't stand out like Herzog's other stuff does. I do appreciate how the paintings are treated and analyzed as art though, but while I do like it when he features eccentric talking heads, it all felt really repetitive and tedious here.

I'm probably being just a tad kind to this film, mostly because I love Herzog, am a history student, and work as a tour guide in a cave, but those biases aside, this is some good stuff, just kinda uneven in its presentation.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


More than "art appreciation," Cave of Forgotten Dreams aims to meditate on the possible birthplace of what makes you and I mentally unique in the animal kingdom. Herzog has a beautiful opportunity to show what 30,000 years looks like through the development of stalactites and stalagmites layered over ancient bones and footprints. He states at the very beginning that the drawings on this cave are twice as old as the next oldest known drawings. We would expect them to be primitive, but they are far, far from it. We see the emotions of the animals, we see their movements, their breath. We see a legendary myth still alive today. Our abilities to think abstractly, focus, and document our experience are all present here -- all necessary to create our sense of presence and spirituality.

Matthew Slaven
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer


"Mankind's Lost Masterpiece"

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is only the second Herzog documentary I have seen; the other being Encounters at the End of the World. Both of which have taken me to a place where I can only dream of going, and have done so with magnificent beauty. That's what this film is all about. Everyone who has complained about Herzog not answering or even asking a lot of questions, is missing the point. This isn't about answers because there really aren't any. Everything about how those paintings came to exist is purely speculation. We can't be transported back tens of thousands of years ago. What it is about is transporting us to a beautiful place that we will never be able to visit and to show us the enormity of human existence. To think about the time between when these paintings were created, relative to where we are now is mind blowing; at least to me anyway.

Herzog does everything right because he lets the cave paintings do the talking. His narration isn't there to give us countless facts about what we are seeing, but is there to show an admiration for what we are seeing. He almost lyrically embraces every painting we see, in such a beautiful way. Then he'll just stop talking, play music, and show us the paintings because that's what we are watching for. 

Making guesses as to how these paintings were made and by whom is just not important, and is really below Herzog. The enormity of what we are looking at wouldn't come across if all he was doing was asking experts their opinions as to a variety of pointless questions. No, this movie is all about the silence. I especially enjoyed the part where he told everyone in the cave to be quiet and just filmed the silence in the cave. These paintings have existed for thousands and thousands of years without anyone even knowing it. They existed in silence, yet they still existed. I love how he brings us back to this moment at the end with the heartbeats. 

If this bores you, I really do feel sorry for you, because you would have to be so out of touch with the human soul that Herzog talks about, to not be completely moved by it. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a one of a kind film that only Herzog could make. 

In many ways, this film is almost too breathtaking to describe. To describe its beauty in a way that is respectful is damn near impossible. 

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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