Fair warning, you need to be in the mood for this movie. It’s two and a half hours long, which is not unusual for Barney, whose considerable films are known for transforming passive cinema presentations into durational experiences. Its expanse of icy and gorgeously unsettling slowness and quietude, with no spoken dialogue and a coppery, snowblind, sometimes blood-stained palette, feels more like something that happens than like something that is merely watched. In a way it’s a test — of your patience, attentiveness to detail, pattern recognition, and capacity for mythological symbolism. But it is a test that is rewarded with a denouement that is viscerally satisfying, emotionally cathartic and even a lit bit hilarious. So if you go, make sure you stay.
A conflation of the Greek myth of Diana the hunter goddess with epically majestic Idaho landscapes that painters from Bierstadt to Friedrich would adore, the story is viewed through the multiple, simultaneous lenses of wilderness management, art-making, choreography and hunting culture; it’s told through, as Barney says, “the language of dance.” The title Redoubt itself is a double or even triple entendre. It’s a remote encampment, it’s a quasi-prepper, off-the-grid subculture, and it’s a homonym for both an official summary and a regard and/or recurrence of uncertainty — all of which are salient to the narrative. As is the fact that this place — wild, wintry Idaho — and these aspects of its culture represent Barney’s personal hometown origins. He has said that it’s a story he’s wanted to tell for a long time. And in truth, it does feel more personal and meditative than his previous films, even than the others in which he has also appeared.
The narrative centers on the converging paths of a three-woman hunting crew, who live in a small but exceptionally well-equipped wilderness camp, and a man (Barney), who lives nearby with his wife in a lakeside trailer. The man tracks animals and makes detailed engravings in a complicated alchemical process which his wife organizes, in between her own celestially-informed sculptural and dance-based practice. The women who hunt with Diana make their way through the forest in slow-burning eccentric choreography whose themes and actions mirror, embody, enable and also defy the violence of the hunt.
Interspersed with stunning cinematography, wildlife photography, affecting and impressionistic musical scoring, lightly repeating and echoing motifs, and a near constant sense of impending danger, the film delivers an unsettling mediation on humanity’s relationship to nature and to itself, from solar events to wolf packs, passion and partnership, touching on balance and intrusion and ultimately expanding the definition of both language and the contours of the life/art/work/creation/destruction continuum. In essence, the key to appreciating Redoubt in all its fullness is just to relax and let it take its time.