September 2012
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‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams': A Cultural Experience on Campus

Tonight I had the nice opportunity to go see Cave of Forgotten Dreams, an award-winning documentary by German filmmaker Werner Herzog giving viewers an unprecedented look at the prehistoric cave paintings in Chauvet Cave in southern France.

The documentary is the first of five films to be shown at McDaniel this September as part of the Tournées Festival, a French film festival that takes place at McDaniel and 33 other colleges throughout the country. I think it’s pretty neat that we get funding from this organization to show French films throughout the month, and I thought it was even neater that the house was packed tonight with both students from the College and community members. At some parts during the screening, it was standing room only.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is unique to the festival since it’s the only film in English. (All others are shown in French with English subtitles.) I thought the film was very neat. Very few people have ever had the chance to go into Chauvet Cave, which has the oldest known cave paintings at 32,000 years old. In fact, Herzog and his crew are the only filmmakers who have ever been allowed in the cave, making the film itself truly one of a kind.

The cave paintings were beautiful depictions of horses and bulls, prehistoric rhinoceroses and lions, and other animals, which were perfectly preserved for thousands of years after a cliff fell and sealed off the original cave opening. The movie really brought paintings to life, by panning slowly across the paintings in several shots, and with extra legs painted on them, the animals themselves seemed to move. The textures of the cave also gave the animals extra dimension, and the prehistoric humans who painted them seemed to use the cave’s formation to their advantage. What fascinated me most about the film though was that it highlighted not only the human relationship and connection to animals but also the human divergence from animal that was taking place at the time through emerging art, music, and mythology. Humans were then beginning to develop the sense of spirituality that separates us from all other animals.

The Tournées Festival is one of many cultural experiences McDaniel has to offer, and I’m hoping to catch one or two more films before the festival ends on September 26. I’m also really looking forward to other cultural and film events that will happen on campus throughout the rest of the semester.

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