Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

A week ago, I saw Werner Herzog's newest film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. As with everything he makes, it was a completely beautiful and bizarre mish-mash of story, characters, and philosophy. Really, it could only have been made better if, say, Txell Miras had been in charge of the wardrobe. Anyway, there was this long drawn out scene in particular that stood out to me, as it somehow mirrored my first experience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I first went to the Met last September, I wanted to look at absolutely everything individually, read every single little tag describing each piece, and take a picture of each piece for future home viewing. I also eavesdropped on the tour guides, trying to absorb as much information as possible. Within about half an hour or more, however, I realized I couldn't possibly do such a thing in my lifetime. So I more or less wandered through the halls of my favorite wing, looking closely only at random pieces and random parts of certain pieces, and enjoying the overwhelming sense that I was so small and insignificant among thousands of years of historical artifacts left behind by people somewhat like me. 

Herzog managed to create the same feeling, having a few scientists point out numerous things to take note of in the cave for a first chunk of the film, followed by what must have been at least a five-minute-long wordless scene of the camera just panning over the various sections of cave wall art, sometimes a few times over the same areas that had already been seen multiple times in the film. To me, it seemed to reiterate the (rather comforting) fact that me and my problems in particular don't really matter in the large scheme of things, because there have been so many other humans before me and there will be many (albeit less than the number preceding) afterwards, and no one will ever recall or study my bad days or personal problems. Because really all that remains of the earliest humans that preceded us is their art. And, ultimately, that might be all that remains of us, as the English language (at least as we know it) will one day die, and all our technological devices will be too obsolete to study.

And so, it seems to me that sooner than people would like (or would like to admit), the vast majority of events that have occurred in our lifetimes will largely be forgotten, and the significance of certain buildings, spaces, or even memorial sites will be unknown. However, I believe it is immensely important to leave these artifacts, to indicate what was so important to us. Even if all that is communicated is that that particular spot on Earth was important to people at some point in time for some reason. You never know when an albino alligator will be trying to recreate our stories.

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