A softer, more succinct Matthew Barney?
Kind of. In his latest film, “Redoubt,” Barney eschews the epic turgidness of his five-film “Cremaster Cycle” — and the scatological grotesque of “River of Fundament” — for something that speaks more directly to themes of nature, the myths of the contemporary American West and the people who seek to colonize it.
Filmed in the stunning Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho where Barney grew up — and clocking in at feature-length 135-minutes — “Redoubt” follows a linear plot inspired by the tale in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon, the mortal who Diana turns into a stag.
The role of Diana is played professional sharpshooter and gun-blogger Anette Wachter who we see making her own bullets before sets out in pursuit of the gray wolf, the animal only recently re-introduced to the Idaho wilderness. (Note: The film’s hunting scenes were staged using trained animals supervised by professional handlers.)
Barney himself plays a white-bearded park service warden cum artist identified only as the Engraver, who retreats to a survivalist’s trailer to drink whisky and etch prints of what he after following Diana on six allegorical hunts. Barney’s character also figures as Actaeon, the mortal which Diana transforms into a stag after she catches him spying on her.
Austin Film Society screens “Redoubt” at 7 p.m. Jan. 1 and at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4. Sightlines readers receive a discount with the code barney. Find tickets here.
Accompanying Diana on her hunts are her two Virgins, played by dance artists Eleanor Bauer and Laura Stokes. Bauer’s choreographed the majority of the film’s movement, creating intriguing moments in which she and Stokes execute intimate, responsive dance gestures, balancing against each other in a hot spring or rolling slowly in the snow.
An alternative to Bauer and Stokes’ dance movement is Bigstone Cree Nation dancer Sandra Lamouche, who in an empty American Legion hall, performs a hoop dance before fashioning the hoops into ceremonial wings.
Shot with high-definition digital cameras, “Redoubt” spends considerable time on long, slow-moving shots of the breathtaking snow-covered landscape and its animal inhabitants. And, refreshingly, we see much less of Barney than in his previous film. It’s the bodies of his collaborators — human and animal — that occupy the screen time.
“Redoubt” is a mythic consideration of the hunter versus the hunted, wrapped in contemporary references to gun culture, hunters and survivalists, and the ecological degradation of the American West.