The myth of Diana and Actaeon is the underlying basis for Redoubt from avant-garde filmmaker Matthew Barney. I know that I lost a good number of readers with the word “avant-garde”, but I hope you’ll stay with me a bit longer, because this film really is an experience that transcends the story itself.
Set in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in winter, the film makes use of the natural world as a beautiful backdrop. It also tells the story without dialogue. Elements of dance also serve as a way of showing the way the characters connect with the natural world as the story progresses.
The film shows us Diana (Anette Wachter) and her two virgins (Eleanor Bauer and Laura Stokes) as Diana ranges through her territory, both watcher and hunter. We also meet a forest ranger (Matthew Barney) who engraves scenery on copperplates, which are then electroplated by (perhaps) his wife (K.J. Holmes). When the ranger comes across Diana and her companions, he begins to engrave them. But Diana takes exception, shooting his copperplates. (She is a great shot.) The film is divided into several hunts, each showing a day in the life of these characters.
Diana and her cohort live in the snowy woods, and seems to be one with the world around them. There is something otherworldly about them in their camo clothing, especially when they begin using dance movements in knee deep snow or while scaling trees. The ranger seems much more an outsider. He lives in a trailer and drives his pickup into the woods. His artwork is as interesting as the dance that the women do, but it involves chemicals and electricity, making it far less organic to the setting.
As I said, this is more about experience than it is about narrative. In that sense this film reminded me a bit of watching a Terrence Malick film. This is a film that celebrates the beauty of the natural world—the trees, the weather, the animals, even the cycle of life and death. It does so with a measured, meditative pace. It is like walking through nature—if you hurry, you’ll miss some of the beauty.
For those who need a strong narrative to be pulled into a film, Redoubt may not be the best choice. But for those who are willing to be engulfed in the emotive, and even spiritual encounter with nature, this film is an interesting new way to experience the world.
Photos courtesy of Grasshopper Films