Werner Herzog's new documentary details the incredible 1994 discovery of the oldest drawings made by humans. They were made inside a cave in France, and -- thanks to a landslide thousands of years ago -- the cave has been hermetically sealed until the recent discovery. So, the drawings are so pristine, they look like they were made weeks ago. In fact, they were made 30,000 years ago.
You'd think the drawings of animals would be primitive. Yet, they are surprisingly sophisticated. One horse, for instance, is depicted with eight legs -- as if to show it in motion.
It is something of a miracle to think of ancient homo sapiens wanting to communicate something to each other and to posterity and of striving to create something beautiful and, perhaps, lasting.
Herzog narrates with almost breathless excitement. He and a tiny film crew are among only a handful of people (the others are archaeologists, art historians, geologists and paleontologists) allowed access to the cave. Herzog marvels at the drawings and what they reveal about our forebears and never lets the audience forget what a find we're watching. It should all make for riveting viewing.
It couldn't be duller.
Herzog movies are always a crap shoot. He either soars (Grizzly Man) or sucks (My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?) It's my fault for ignoring my instincts and instead listening to the 96 percent of critics who gave this glorified school film strip rave reviews.
The truth is: cave drawings are boring. I wanted to sustain my initial intrigue, but it was impossible. It proved to be impossible for a handful of my fellow moviegoers who left and nearly so for the fidgety ones who remained. Woolly mammoths, bison and horses drawn on cave walls are fascinating for four, five minutes, tops. Herzog thinks they merit 90 minutes. The same horses and bison are shown over and over and over again. And, they're set to prehistoric-sounding music. If you like the sound of a handmade recorder, this is the film for you. If not, well, you know what to do. Skip it.