Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams
(2010)

I admit it, I'm a nerd about many, many fields of study. The Chauvet caves in Southern France have always left me in a state of awe, so I was delighted to discover this documentary deep in the bowels of Netflix. 

The film begins with a quick run around the old hills and rivers of southern France where Chauvet cave is hidden. The landscape speaks of eons past for it is old old old. Our guides appreciate the magnificence of the way we travel and we fall into silent reverence, awe. When we finally see the entrance to the cave we see that authorities have sealed it and have actually placed a locked steel door to protect the delicate balance of chemistry and biology and artistry within the cave. The original entrance to the cave suffered a massive landslide thousands of years ago and is now buried within about fifty or more feet of rubble and crystal stalactites. What an interesting thought to ponder, that the immensity of time allows for both the masterpieces inside to have been created, a massive landslide, and another amount of time for that additional fifty feet to develop stalactites and stalagmites that nearly form columns...

The gorgeous shots of these crystal-covered pillars is truly breathtaking. Can our human observation of these columns adequately appreciate the beauty of Nature's ways? Can we appreciate the immensity of the creation of this single cave chamber through utterly natural, knowable forces? Does it move us that this chamber existed completely without humans' awareness for eons? Is it my mind alone that struggles to process such reality? 

We move forward into a chamber only to be welcomed by a massive bison, as though the artist could barely contain his delight at the discovery of canvas worthy of his dreams.

In fact, the paintings are absolutely transcendent to me, yet it is the time passage that makes my mind stop and pause... I cannot grasp the idea of thirty-five thousand years. I want so much to imagine the one who carried the flaming torch deep into the cave, rubbed that torch over the side wall to clear it of ash, and then painted his own handprint onto the walls. I want to, for a moment, enter into that flash of time when an artist actually scraped the cave wall free of crystallized coating and painted true images of paleolithic horses and bison with such accuracy. OR that next moment, possibly five thousand years later, when another artist painted bison, rhinoceros, and ibex onto the same walls, now, again, glazed with crystal.

The silence so deep, my own heartbeat in my ears, there he is...fingers full of red ocher, confidently recreating the abundance of life...or calling out to the spirit of those animals? The dark so deep. Where my light does not shine remains as it has been for an eon, pitch and lightless. The bones of cave bear at my feet are already beyond age and I am here where no one will again step for another age. There, the skull of a cave bear completely clothed in crystal. It is silent here, yet not, for the earth itself has a voice of its own. He works alone, stooped, broken finger, lost in the dreams in his mind. 

He dabs orange pigment into the wall making a leopard pattern, sits back and appreciates his work. He alone has done this. He alone knows of the secret of these cave walls. His name is unknown today. His hands have become legend, myth, dream. He is somehow as real as this room, yet shrouded, as indistinct in the time between us as mist. The time keeps him forever enigmatic and veiled...yet still before me...

Who was he? Can you see him?
Does his humanity call to you?

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