On Saturday 17 June, enjoy free screenings of two of Werner Herzog’s most jubilant explorations of the extremes of the world: his documentaries Encounters at the End of the World 2007 at 1.00pm and Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 at 3.00pm.
These two documentaries are triumphs of modern documentary filmmaking. In both circumstances, Herzog travelled with a limited crew (for Encounters, only his cameraperson; for Cave, just three other crew members) under restricted conditions. Yet these boundaries only make the material more fascinating – cutting to the core of what is so enthralling about these subjects. Both documentaries offer footage which can never be replicated and grant admittance to two of the most inaccessible places on the planet.
‘Encounters at the End of the World’ … is an invocation of all that is wonderful on the planet, an articulation of my amazement and wonder at the Antarctic landscape, a celebration of the continent.
Encounters at the End of the World is a glorious celebration of Antarctica and the people who work there. Herzog travels to the McMurdo Research Station to visit its scientists, joining them as they travel across the wilderness and into the icy water below.
They study the animals that inhabit the landscape with the director’s usual unusualness – foregoing the typical reverent treatment of the creatures, instead showing both their beauty and their potential for madness.
For Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog was granted exclusive access into the Chauvet Caves in France, home to the oldest known cave paintings in the world. In order to ensure the careful preservation of the caves, Herzog was restricted to just a four-person crew and only a few hours of filming each day.
Despite these constraints, he and his team captures the breathtaking paintings of animals – bison, horses, cave bears, mammoths among them – in vivid detail, bringing to life the incredible power of these images after more than 32,000 years on the walls of the caves.
I WENT IN AS A POET, HOPING TO ACTIVATE THE AUDIENCE’S IMAGINATION. IF ‘CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS’ WERE FULL ONLY OF SCIENTIFIC FACTS, IT WOULD BE INSTANTLY FORGETTABLE. MY IDEA WAS ALWAYS TO STEP ASIDE AND LET THE ART DO THE TALKING.
Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Rialto Distribution
QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of Werner Herzog Film GmbH, Vienna; the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra; and the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin in providing materials for this program. Program curated by Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque.