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River of Fundament (2014)

In 2007, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler began a new collaborative project inspired by American author Norman Mailer's 1983 novel Ancient Evenings, set in pharaonic Egypt. The project ... See full summary »


Matthew Barney


Matthew Barney, David Grimm (additional dialogue written and adapted by)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dave Bald Eagle ... Norman III
Milford Graves Milford Graves ... Norman II
John Buffalo Mailer ... Norman I
Ellen Burstyn ... Hathfertiti
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Hathfertiti
Madyn Greer Coakley ... Hathfertiti (as Madyn Coakley)
Paul Giamatti ... Ptah-Nem-Hotep
Joan La Barbara Joan La Barbara ... The Widow of Norman
Stephen Payne Stephen Payne ... Usermare
Aimee Mullins ... The Ka of Norman / Isis
Matthew Barney ... The Ka of Norman / Osiris: James Lee Byars
Jennie Knaggs Jennie Knaggs ... Nephthys
Eugene Perry Eugene Perry ... Set
Herbert Perry Herbert Perry ... Set
Brennan Hall Brennan Hall ... Horus


In 2007, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler began a new collaborative project inspired by American author Norman Mailer's 1983 novel Ancient Evenings, set in pharaonic Egypt. The project was conceived as a nontraditional opera with a series of one-time-only live acts performed across the American landscape. The film River of Fundament combines documentation of these three live acts with scenes set in a reconstruction of Norman Mailer's brownstone apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Barney and Bepler's script reimagines Mailer as his own protagonist who reincarnates three times in three different bodies by magically entering the womb of his wife Hathfertiti. With each incarnation the undead Norman emerges from a river of feces that runs beneath his Brooklyn Heights apartment and enters his own wake. Imagined as a memorial gathering attended by figures in the New York literary world, the wake takes place inside the Mailer apartment as it is ferried down the river. Guests eulogize Mailer and ... Written by Mike Bellon

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



User Reviews

An epic opera of filth, beauty, death, life and rebirth

There's no voice of a narrator telling you, what's going on. Weird scenes with groups of people organizing themselves in a way, that doesn't give any explanation, only hints of remembrance, but there is no self-explanatory sense in how everyone acts. Mesmerizing tribal music, orchestral sounds and opera singers lead the way. Images that don't make sense are repeated and suddenly there is sense.

If you can enjoy this film depends highly on your expectations. It isn't supposed to be a classic hollywood blockbuster, nor an edgy independet film. It is a gentle opera of images and sound. Matthew Barney referenced Kubrick in his films before, but this time he is taking it on another level. It is not a tough piece of experimental film, that wants to challenge the viewer. It is an experimental film, that's breaking down to the core of film - suspense, drama and beauty. The mythological happenings surrounding Norman Mailer are telling a deeply emotional and symbolically charged story of life, death and rebirth in it's rawest but strangest way.

If you want to know more about the story of the film, you could read the synopsis. But where would be the fun then, in discovering Matthew Barneys' powerful world by yourself?

Unfortunatly you won't be able to find this film on a dvd or online, but let's hope that this will change in the future.

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Official Sites:

Official site




English | Spanish

Release Date:

12 February 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

River of Fundament See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,938, 6 December 2015

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Laurenz Foundation See more »
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Technical Specs


| (including two intermissions)


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