Werner Herzog’s new film is in 3-D; it’s a documentary about the 30,000-year-old drawings recently discovered in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave in southern France.
Herzog gained extraordinary permission to film the caves using lights that emit no heat. But Herzog being Herzog, this is no simple act of documentation. He initially resisted shooting in 3D, then embraced the process, and now it’s hard to imagine the film any other way. Just as Lascaux left Picasso in awe, the works at Chauvet are breathtaking in their artistry. The 3D format proves essential in communicating the contoured surfaces on which the charcoal figures are drawn. Beyond the walls, Herzog uses 3D to render the cave’s stalagmites like a crystal cathedral and to capture stunning aerial shots of the nearby Pont-d’Arc natural bridge. His probing questions for the cave specialists also plunge deep; for instance: “What constitutes humanness?”
Herzog pursued the film after reading Judith Thurman’s 2008 piece about the cave drawings in the New Yorker.