In “The Cave and the Cathedral,” an essay published in Image, Gregory Wolfe — the founder and editor of Image, and the director of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program — writes about seeing Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and what this cinematic tour of the world’s oldest art gallery, the Chauvet Cave, revealed to him.

It’s a typical Herzog film—personal and eccentric, marked by moments of insight and marred by a number of strange non sequiturs—but it may be the best footage of this cave the world is ever likely to see, given the French government’s decision to refuse public access to it. When I saw the hand-held camera lights illuminate the first image on the wall, I found myself transfixed.

What he goes on to consider transforms this essay from a film review into a contemplation of what such “primitive” art can mean for us today.

I’ve read this essay several times and I’ve heard Wolfe present it at the Glen Workshop. It gives me chills every time. And it’s the kind of writing that makes me want to do my own work of writing about film better.

Read the whole thing.

If you like it, then take note: It’s the opening chapter of Wolfe’s new book The Operation of Grace.