Cremaster 3

Director: Matthew Barney
Screenwriters: Matthew Barney

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


"Cremaster," in the title of Mathew Barney's epic five-part saga, sounds like it might refer to a superhero. In actuality, it refers to the muscle that raises and lowers the male testes according to temperature, external stimulation, or fear. Either reference would be appropriate, however, for Cremaster 3 watches like a magnificent, high-art, sexually charged comic book conceived during the fever dream of a mad genius.

Any attempt to give a brief synopsis of the film would be an exercise in futility. It is an intoxicating mixture of architectural theory, Celtic mythology, and the history of Freemasonry, as well as parodying several movie genres in a timeless universe in which symbols and images are densely layered and interconnected. Characters flow in and out of story lines, as well as physical spaces, worming their way toward their destiny. The resulting cosmology is both beautiful and complex.

This three-hour film has little dialogue but manages to impart an overwhelming number of ideas and concepts that lambaste the senses into a punch-drunk, exhilarating stupor. The final installment in Barney's series, Cremaster 3 rises to mind-boggling heights in its creativity and complexity and will firmly establish his extraordinary voice in the film world, as it has already been established in the art world.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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