From Cave to Screen: A Study of the Shamanic Origins of Filmmaking


  • Lila Moore Cybernetic Futures Institute



Proto-cinema, Palaeolithic art, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, consciousness, shaman


This article is a study of the shamanic origins of cinema and the processes and elements involved in filmmaking and film viewing that recall shamanic and ritualistic practices. It interweaves several studies alongside theoretical and creative concepts concerning the shamanic origins of art and film, starting with Werner Herzog’s statement from his film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011) that the Chauvet Cave art constitutes a proto-cinema. In this study, a comparative analysis of the archetypal structure of the cave’s proto-cinema and the basic structure of Australian Aboriginal rituals demonstrates that they share common characteristics. The latter are associated with the contemporary cinematic apparatus. Moreover, Herzog’s approach to the cave art as a cinematic shaman initiating the film’s viewers is detailed in order to demonstrate the parallels between the shamanic and ritualistic technology and features of the cave art and the modern technology and awareness involved in moving images, filmmaking and film viewing. David Lewis-Williams’ neuropsychological model of altered states of consciousness as a basis for our understanding of Upper Paleolithic cave art allows further articulations of the characteristics of the shamanic experience as generated by the aesthetics of the cinematic medium. In addition, the article implies that exploration of the interrelations of contemporary cinematic aesthetics and ancient shamanic depictions may trigger further insights on the evolution of human creativity and aesthetic forms through the integration of technological and spiritual means and expressions.

Author Biography

Lila Moore, Cybernetic Futures Institute

Dr Lila Moore, Cybernetic Futures Institute, London, UK


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