Avant-garde artist Matthew Barney has reinvented Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer in a film dubbed River of Fundament. The epic tale is set in LA, New York and Detroit, portrayed by Barney as a contemporary opera using a combination of traditional narrative cinema and more experimental film devices. The original book by Mailer is a complex take on reincarnation and Egypt mythology. The theme of reincarnation is likewise a focus of Barney’s film, depicting the journeys of the dead through Mailer’s river of feces. Barney’s reproduction stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Paul Giamatti, Salman Rushdie and Ellen Burstyn alongside musicians and vocalists.
Barney is best known for his critically lauded Cremaster Cycle series of feature-length avant-garde films. Some characters from Cremaster 3 appear in River of Fundament, including one played by Barney himself. The film is a collaboration with Jonathan Bepler, who composed and directed the music, and who worked with Barney on the Cremaster films. The three-act play is an epic six hours long.