Brokeback Mountain

brokebackBrokeback Mountain, the movie, must be seen as an example of cinematic art, not a pro-gay (or anti-gay) polemic.

I read Annie Proulx’s short story in the 1997 New Yorker original. (It’s also in her collection of fourteeen short stories, Close range: Wyoming stories (Scribners, 2000).)

“Brokeback Mountain” is a spare story, economically written. It made me feel that the film story might be rather gloomy – as it was in parts – and I don’t like gloomy movies. I was reluctant to see it. But I was completely convinced by its skill, beauty and economy as cinema, even while I felt dismay and frustration at the content of the story. The flat, dry, physical and spiritual emptiness of the plains towns and ranches where Jack and Ennis live with their families contrasts with the greenness and beauty of the mountainscape where they find each other’s love.

One needs to separate the film’s achievement as a work of fine film making from opinions of the morality or otherwise of the film’s characters. Brokeback Mountain superbly portrays two men who are romantically and erotically attracted to each other (without once mentioning ‘love’) and their struggle to understand. But the film does not celebrate their adultery, unfaithfulness and lies. Rather, it shows the harm done and the social and emotional pressures that brought them to do these things in social circumstances oppressive of gay men.

I like Anthony Lane’s review in the New Yorker (12 Dec 05).

The Advocate runs an interesting Associated Press interview with Annie Proulx about the short story and the film.

“I thought [the performances of Ledger and Gyllenhall] were magnificent, both of them. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist … wasn’t the Jack Twist that I had in mind when I wrote this story. The Jack that I saw was jumpier, homely. But Gyllenhaal’s sensitivity and subtleness in this role is just huge. The scenes he’s in have a kind of quicksilver feel to them. Heath Ledger is just almost really beyond description as far as I’m concerned. He got inside the story more deeply than I did. All that thinking about the character of Ennis that was so hard for me to get, Ledger just was there. He did indeed move inside the skin of the character, not just in the shirt but inside the person. It was remarkable.”