I’d been primed in advance of the actual viewing by an NPR radio spot Herzog did alongside Cormac McCarthy and Lawrence Krauss, and by the always readable Amir Aczel’s The Cave and the Cathedral (2009). The viewing itself did not disappoint. Herzog rightly gave the paintings themselves the most screen time. There was no withholding and build-up. No grandstanding. He jumped right in with footage of the crew’s first foray into the cave, and returned again and again until the lengthy climactic sequence, which I found exquisitely edited and paced. Ernst Reijseger’s serious score accompanied the images quite fittingly. I say “serious” because I don’t know how else to describe it. It wasn’t quite “religious.” At least not in the usual sense. Re-ligio literally means “to re-tie.” But religion properly speaking re-ties earth and heaven, the mundane and the transcendent. Here the cord is not one that stretches along the anagogic-katagogic axis, but backwards and forwards along the line of time. It’s a cord 32,000 years in length, so unless one were an albino crocodile it would seem difficult not to feel reverence in its presence. Reijseger thus had the daunting job of composing a score that evoked a reverence of a horizontal rather than a vertical kind, and to my ear’s memory he ably succeeded…
August 12, 2011
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