Sunday, May 15, 2011


Interesting that Herzog proudly states the limitations he is working under - on this path, for limited time, etc. - wouldn't it be interesting if documentarians often spoke of their limitations - ethical, financial, etc. Here it seems rather meaningless.

Herzog states the paintings look as if they had been done yesterday though "they are not a forgery". Odd that he here defends their "truth"/facticity, when he seems otherwise unconcerned with the issue, as he later makes his typical 'names in a telephone book' analogy pointing to the belief that it is the stories behind the (alleged) facts that are of interest/importance.

A claim is made about a "powerful and deep" way of understanding the paintings - a different, more human?, way of understanding?

Herzog names the cave painters as "artists". Seemingly giving value to art-making as a human attribute, or a defining attribute? But also, interestingly, he asks if we "can ever understand the vision of the artists over such an expanse of time". I think he believes we can - go back to the "deep understanding" - but this does beg the question of whether or not we can ever understand the vision of the artist (over expanses of culture, place, etc.).

This popped for me during a conversation between the two female archeologists (I think they were archeologists), where one, who is otherwise hardly speaking, corrects the main speaker to state that they did not know the gender of these cave painters. The main speaker goes on with her masculine generics. After this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Herzog et alia are using masculine generics for all references to the painters, in fact, for all human existence. This becomes more painful and obvious when they begin their segment on the only human representation painted in the cave as a female one. So all the action/painting/being/"cultural creation" is male, even though only a female is present. There is also the odd moment in the film when two archeologist-types are talking about the flute discovery made by the woman, Maria, I believe, but Herzog allows the older male to do most of the speaking, and then introduces Maria, allowing her to give a basic recap of her discovery. Lastly, Herzog's imaginary of the "Eight year-old boy" with the wolf in "the forbidden part of the cave" - the story he wants to tell is clearly a very male one.

In the Postscript, Herzog tosses out some typically herzogian moments with the statement "nothing is real, nothing is certain" as he shows us the alligators. The albino alligator (of course attributed to the nearby nuclear power plant) "meets" another albino - "do they really meet or is this their imaginary reflection?" Moments later, Herzog closes the film on us with the same albino alligator staring at us in the audience, presumably we are being asked the same question - are we also this? Though an interesting question in itself, big-picture-wise, which I think Herzog loves to operate in, it is ridiculously out of place with the balance of the film. Herzog has spent the entire film caressing the cave walls, rhapsodizing about the artistic value of these paintings, the humanity on display. If Herzog wanted to reduce the importance of these cave paintings he merely would have suggested an equivalence (I guess there is an implied suggestion, but I mean that he would have made this explicit, which would have surprised no-one familiar with Herzog) to the alleged bear-claw markings on the same cave walls that laid underneath the paintings. What are the differences between such representations? he could have asked, just as he asks if we are that albino alligator. I think these seemingly more absurd questions are actually a bit more interesting, but here, their elision more telling.

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