Let There Be Light!
Basics of Composition
First Thoughts when choosing a Costume
The Sun, Part 1
Brokeback MountainMovie Review
by Bertha Chin
Wyoming, summer 1963: Two men, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) take on jobs herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain, and in the wilderness surrounded by sweeping mountain ranges, meadows and rivers, cut off from the rest of civilisation, they started a passionate love affair that would span over 20 years, across Wyoming and Texas. Their separate married, but somewhat dysfunctional lives, however, soon put a dent on their relationship, as their rendezvous back to Brokeback Mountain under the guise of fishing trips become less frequent and tinged with more tension. Jack, the would-be rodeo star is the one who is more comfortable with his sexual identity. He dreams of getting a ranch together, obviously wanting and needing more out of his relationship with Ennis. Ennis, however, will have none of it, haunted by a scene from childhood at the sight of a rancher beaten to death by other cowboys for living with another man, utterly convinced that their fate will be similar should they pursue their relationship openly.
But the more Ennis denies his own emotions, the more he seems to whither away into himself. His sinewy, hunchbacked posture and gruff monotone seems to demonstrate his frustrations at the situation he is caught in and society's expectations of what cowboys (and men) are supposed to be, while the distance between him and his wife, Alma (played with heartbreaking honesty by a surprising Michelle Williams) continues to grow further. Jack, on the other hand, appears to grow into his role as the perfect farm equipment salesman in the family business run by his wife, Lureen (Anne Hathaway, possibly in her most mature role to date), but seemingly releases his own frustrations with increasing infidelity. But when the two men are back together in their Arcadian existence in Brokeback Mountain, Ennis loses the weight he seems to carry on his shoulders, while Jack, despite his frustrations with the hopelessness of their situation, resonates with touching sentimentality, often with nothing but a look in his puppy eyes.
The film should not merely be dismissed as a "gay cowboy flick". There is some classic Ang Lee filmmaking here with the lingering close-up gazes, establishing shots, and sweeping panoramic views of the country, particularly Wyoming (doubled by Alberta, Canada, in this case). But look beyond the context of the "gay romance", and it is really a melodrama, filled with emotions of love and regret, even guilt, that even if set within the context of today's society, may still have the same end result, regardless if it is a love story between two men, women or a heterosexual couple of different religion or ethnicity. But the film isn't interested in any overt (political or social) messages, even if there were moments where it seemed as if the dialogues between Jack and Ennis were geared toward making the film "acceptable", especially to the general public.
It is, simply, greater than that. But because it is a love story that happens to be between two men--two cowboys--it is directed with great sensitivity by Lee, and played with heartbreaking stoicism by two brilliant young actors, Ledger and Gyllenhaal, featuring a strong backup cast of surprisingly powerful performances by Williams and Hathaway. If anything, the sheer hopelessness of the star-crossed lovers' story, adapted from a short story by Annie Proulx, will make you concentrate on the Whartonesque tragedy and forget that the characters are gay.
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