Friday, January 13, 2006

"This thing grabs hold of us"

I finally saw Brokeback Mountain yesterday. Here's my review.

First, director Ang Lee and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto have created a gorgeous picture filled with lush, beautiful landscapes. The picture captures the natural beauty of Wyoming (though it was filmed in Alberta), from snowy peaks to green hillsides to flowing herds of sheep. Combined with the movie's tagline -- "Love is a Force of Nature" -- Lee has clearly created powerful symbolic imagery of the beauty of nature.

The story, written by Larry McMurtry from E. Annie Proulx's short story, is a powerful and heart-wrenching story of love, sacrifice, and emptiness. For anyone who has been living in a cave and has not heard anything about this movie (which is up for 7 Golden Globes this weekend), it tells the story of two sheep herders, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) who meet while working on Brokeback Mountain. They form a bond and, to their surprise, eventually fall in love. Jack is far more comfortable with his attraction than Ennis is, but Ennis knows that what he feels is real. But because of circumstances in their lives and society, Jack and Ennis have to be content to secretly meet every few months. Both men get married, have families, but are never happy until they reunite for "fishing trips." Jack even suggests that the two could live together and be happy, but Ennis tells a sad story about two ranchers who lived together when he was little -- everyone knew about them and they were the town joke. One day, one of the men is brutally murdered for being gay, and Ennis's dad takes Ennis to see the dead, battered body -- "He made sure I saw it." Ennis knows the reality of society, so he must live the life that is expected of him.

Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar for his performance as the deeply conflicted Ennis (and the movie is the frontrunner right now for the Best Picture Oscar, for those that follow such things). Ledger's quiet suffering highlights the inner turmoil Ennis faces throughout his life. At one point, he blames Jack for his misery because if he had not fallen in love with Jack, he may never have known what he was missing. Jack and Ennis know happiness, but they aren't allowed to seize it. They did not choose this life for themselves. Why would they?

Of course the movie has stirred up controversy, but I believe that it is just a beautiful love story. Gender is irrelevant here. Two people are kept apart by circumstances beyond their control, and this is one of the oldest stories in the world. Some reviews I have read claim that this movie could change people's hearts. I think that it could too, because it makes clear that love is love and love is natural. But I don't think many views will actually be changed because people with prejudice won't see it because of the subject matter, which of course is their right. But they will be missing a truly beautiful movie. One group that has protested the movie claims that it promotes the breakup of the "traditional family." In other words, Ennis and Jack's marriages and families suffer because they are gay. I guess this is true, but the point is that they try to conform to what society expects of them, but they can never be happy pretending to be something they aren't.

Ennis and Jack's story reminds me of some lyrics from the Page France song "Love and Interruption":

"And if it feels as though there must be something missing,
then you must know how it would feel to be complete."


At 8:16 PM, Blogger Kara posited...

Every review I read for this movie makes me want to see it more; unfortunately, unless I can convince my mother to drive somewhere to go and see it with me, I shall just have to wait until it comes out onto DVD. Only a few more months until I could go and see it by myself.

I think getting to see R rated movies in the theater without a guardian is the only perk of turning 17.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Johnny V posited...

I saw this movie.

Personally, I didn't like it. I guess that might be because I'm not exactly the poster boy for love story movies. The acting and the technical directions of the film was very good but the whole "distant lovers" storyline thing didn't really capture me I guess.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Tara posited...


Ginny and I enjoyed it a lot, but James and John were just negative nancies about the whole business.

Your review sums it up perfectly, W.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger P "N" K posited...

Well let's not rag on Johnny too much. I mean this is the kid that during the Dukes of Hazzard preview before the latest Batman shouted out "Sean William Scott" and "Johnny Knoxville" and "YEAHHHH" and then didn't say anything about Jessica Simpson.

In succint fashion, he's not entirely sane.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger mayah posited...

the movie was wonderful. i laughed, i cried, bla bla bla, but you could tell it was stretched from a short story, if that makes sense. i loved it, but not as much as i thought i would. and afterwards i spoke in a heavy drawl for hours, i couldn't help myself.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Sherlock posited...

I don't believe I've ever seen a movie that affected so much emotionally. I had the pleasure of seeing the movie while seated next to Matt who was seated next to Albie. Despite Mr. Cumming's irrationably loud laughs, I enjoyed the movie immensely, even going into it with some spoilers relayed to me by Max Karnowski. I loved it, especially the lonesome intraspective character played by Ledger, so very similar to some of my dad's relatives (except the gay part, they're not so cool with that)


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