More than 50 films into his career, Werner Herzog is undeniably one of the most masterful filmmakers alive and a rare beast who nimbly jumps from documentaries to fiction. Having recently coaxed a particularly deranged performance out of Nicolas Cage (even by his standards), Herzog returned to non-fiction with Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, a hypnotic documentary about the remarkable ancient paintings in Southern France’s Chauvet Cave. Ever experimental, the film was Herzog’s first in 3D, “I’m still a skeptic of 3D, but the moment that I saw the cave and how the paintings used the drama of the walls, there was no choice,” the director told Metro, adding, “but if I look back, none of my other films would be right in 3D.”
Cave paintings have been a lifelong obsession for Herzog, who leapt at the chance to make the film. Unfortunately, the Chauvet Cave is a very fragile environment and few people are allowed to enter, requiring some careful negotiation by the director. “It was complicated and culminated in a meeting between the French Minister of Culture and me,” explained Herzog. “He asked, ‘why shouldn’t it be a French filmmaker to make this film?’ So, I proposed to work as an employee at a French Ministry of Culture for a fee of one Euro. Then they could show the film in 30,000 French film classes for free. That was kind of helpful,” he deadpanned.
Like all of Herzog’s work, the film required an incredibly difficult and at times painful production (this is the man who once had his crew pull a steamship over a mountain), but the director hopes that the behind the scenes stories will not overshadow the actual movie. “The journey doesn’t count,” he claimed. “Who cares if we like each other or how deep we had to plunge down into a cave. That’s not interesting. It’s only what you see on the screen.