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FEATURED STORY: Epiphany, an original piece from Werner Herzog on ‘ Cave of Forgotten Dreams ‘

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.16: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – I was thirteen years old, and had just returned to Munich where I was born. But a carpet bombing, only two weeks after I was born, caused 7 of the Bavarian mountains.

She had found me in my cradle with a layer, about a foot thick, of glass shards, bricks and debris on top of me. But I was completely unhurt.

I grew up with my brothers near a mountain village, not knowing of the outside world. We had no running water, electricity only sporadically, and only an outhouse for a toilet. We did not have enough to eat, we were always hungry. I did not know of the existence of cinema and telephones. I made my first phone call at the age of seventeen. My mother would read books for us and for all the kids from neighboring farms where there were no books.

I was thirteen, now in the big city of Munich, still partially in ruins. I walked past a bookstore. I walked past, but something made me stop. I remember the moment vividly.

There was something in the display window of the store that I had spotted out of the corner of my eye. It was like lightning. I walked back, and saw a book on display that had a horse on its cover. It was a painting of a horse in black and ochre, galloping, as I had never seen a painting before. It was not really a painting of a horse, it was like the soul, the essence, the manifestation of the spirit of a horse. And to my deep astonishment I saw a caption that this was a painting from a paleolithic cave in France created some 15,000 years back in time. It was from the cave of Lascaux. This was, in a way, my epiphany. I needed this book, but it was expensive, way over my allowance of 25 cents my mother gave me each week. I kept my discovery a secret, but that very day I started to earn money, furiously, silently, as a ball boy on a tennis court.

Every so often, I would sneak by the bookstore to see if the book was still there. I had a deep, gnawing fear inside that somebody else would buy the book, and it would be gone.

I did not sleep well at night. After two months I had the money together, and the book was still there. I bought it, and the shiver that went through me when I opened it, I still feel to this day. It was like the awakening of my soul.

Decades later, the Chauvet Cave was discovered, with pristine paintings preserved in it like in a time capsule…………….The paintings were twice as old as the paintings of Lascaux, dating back over 30,000 years.

Because of too many visitors to Lascaux who exuded humidity from their bodies, the paintings there had deteriorated. Mold had started to eat them away, and therefore Lascaux was shut down, and Chauvet was categorically off limits to any intruder, except a handful of scientists. But there was a rumor a film crew would be allowed in for a very short period of time, and under the severest of restrictions. I immediately competed.

The French – when it comes to their patrimony – are extremely territorial. Only French scientists worked in the cave, and it was quite clear only a French filmmaker would get the official assignment.

I hustled to get a meeting with the French minister of culture, Frederic Mitterand, a nephew of the former president. He was one of the hurdles to be overcome for the permit to shoot the film, as well as the council of scientists and the local government of the region. He had seen a good number of my films that had deeply impressed him, and he was apologetic that as a foreigner my chances were slim. Yes, he would like to tell me I was competent to make the film, but there were also a number of French… I interrupted him rudely in my growing desperation. I said I had competence for some deeper reasons. What do you mean, Mitterand asked? I told him the story of my epiphany as an adolescent. Before I had finished he leaned with his whole body across his desk and took my hand.

” You are the one who will make the film,” I said thank you. And I said the film will have the title CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS.

-Werner Herzog, Director of Cave of Forgotten Dreams
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