on 13 July 2006
Love has no rules. It happens when we least expect it, often when we don't want it, many times when we can't handle it. It often times scares you, surprises you, shakes you down to your very core. Ennis Del Mar (a remarkable Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (an emotionally available Jake Gyllenhaal) find themselves thrown together because of a job: forced to spend many hours together alone in the wild, tending to sheep in a remote region of Wyoming....on Brokeback Mountain. They fall in love: a love that they soon realize only lives and breathes on the mountain.
It's 1963, pre American involvement in the Vietnam War, post Korean War: a time in the USA when life was simple, straightforward and the lines between the sexes and sex roles were crisply drawn and severely delineated. It was a time when men and women were pigeon-holed into unrealistic modes of behavior and anyone who ventured outside of these boundaries was thought of at best, weird at worst... perverted and in many states, criminal. Ennis himself, at an early age was witness to the ugly, disgusting results of a hate crime perpetrated on a Wyoming farmer who had lived many years with his partner. In most societies he would be venerated but in 1950's Wyoming... he became a target.
Director Ang Lee begins this film as both Ennis and Jack are waiting outside of a building, both looking for work, both down on their luck, both avoiding each other's eyes. We know, or those of us who have read the story know, what is to happen and so unfortunately we read more into that simple scene than there really is. But with all that aside, this scene of Ennis and Jack avoiding each other, dodging each others looks, staring at the ground, kicking up the dirt is nonetheless rife with sensuality and tension.
Ennis and Jack are inexorably drawn to each other through their proximity, loneliness and through a shared lack of tenderness and emotion in their lives: they are emotionally, physically and psychically bonded almost from the start. It is inevitable. It is Fate.
And so begins a Love affair that transcends social mores, time, marriages, children, extra-marital affairs and divorce.
Despite all that is going on in their lives, Ennis and Jack meet several times a year up on Brokeback mountain and rekindle and thereby re-ignite their emotional and physical attraction: there is no one around, they are free from their regular lives...they can love.
Much has been made of Heath Ledger's performance as Ennis and he gives what is without a doubt one of the finest performances of this year. Ennis is a quiet, stoic man and he is troubled and frankly scared by how deeply he feels for Jack. As he showed us first in "Monster's Ball," Ledger is capable of digging way deep down into his gut and imbuing his performances with an unflinching frankness and truth that we can neither ignore nor help to be moved by.
Gyllenhall's Jack is the younger of the two: he's fun, he's a little crazy and unfortunately he wants a lot, lot more than Ennis is able to give him. Gyllenhaal's hang-dog, frisky puppy of a performance is full of warmth and light: the kind of transcendent light that shines out from a soul full of love, understanding and acceptance.
"Brokeback Mountain" is devastating in both its presentation, its performances and its tragic denouement. This movie is not for everyone. But if you are willing to open up your heart and mind a bit to let in its beauty, emotionality and sensuality you will not be disappointed. In fact... you will be renewed.
on 30 January 2008
I watched this film recently, after the sad news of Heath Ledger's untimely death. I had previously avoided the film because of all the hype, so my expectation was low. I have to say that I was simply blown away; by everything...the cinematography, the story and the acting. The performances were superb and the fact that Heath Ledger's acting stood head and shoulders above the rest just makes the loss of this wonderfully talented actor all the more tragic.
I highly recommend this film, if you haven't seen it, please do so; in fact get the DVD so you can watch it over and over again, because you'll want to.
Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist's love story is surely destined to become a classic, if it isn't already.
on 8 July 2006
Simply the best film I have ever seen. It restored my faith in the power of cinema to be a positive force for change and enlightenment. The first 20 minutes is lyrically paced in order to do justice to the formative nature of this period on the rest of these mens lives. The acting, writing and direction were universally excellent and it should have swept the Oscars. Not until the second viewing did I fully appreciate just how multi-layered the film is; how poor these guys were and how this determined their limited options; Ennis stubbing out a half smoked cigarette and putting it in his pocket and being so worried about the loss of a shirt;Jack Twist attempting to reseal a loose heel on his shoe by placing it in the campfire. Its classic status is already confirmed and it has to be an essential part of the collection of all cinema lovers because it rewards you more with each viewing. Watch it and, if you allow it to, it may just change your life for the better.
on 13 January 2008
The first time I watched this DVD I felt disappointed and disaffected when I returned the disc to its box. Some 18 months on while thumbing through a stack of media, I thought I'd give it a second viewing; but this time I wasn't prejudiced. This time, 135 minutes later, I found myself emotionally "torn-open". An unprecedented reaction and somewhat debilitating. How was this, I wondered. I think now perhaps I know:
Have the DVD subtitles set "ON", as it is sometimes hard to perceive the dialogue. Every word is precious in this brilliant screenplay and none must be missed. Warning: do not expect to be "entertained". That's not what this movie is about. Make sure you are undisturbed, then just recline, relax and watch. (ideally on a large wide-screen)
The cinematic crafting is magnificent and in many ways flawless, with camera shots and colour you'd find in National Geographic. The musical score is haunting and blends perfectly with the sublime scenery. Heath Ledger's portrayal of an introvert ranch-hand, anguished and perplexed by his feelings is an astonishing performance and harrowing to watch. In fact, all the actors under the guidance of Director Ang Lee were just memorising. Sometimes their silent repressed expressions were visually "deafening" with emotion. I became totally drawn in and immersed in the lives of these perceivable characters. It was an effusive encounter.
Few people will actually 'enjoy' "Brokeback Mountain". I say this because some folk, by nature of their disposition, will inevitably be uneasy, bored and restless for the film to finish. Unreceptive to its human story, as I first was. The remaining majority however will feel intense empathy and agitation from the impact of this stunning masterpiece. A wonderful ability of this film.
If, like me, this movie didn't 'engage' the first time you saw it, please give it a 2nd chance and follow my instructions. And if you've never experienced "Brokeback Mountain", I suggest you do.
This is an extraordinarily beautiful film capable of piercing emotion.
on 27 February 2006
I have seen lots of films of all genres, but none has ever had the effect on me that this one has, the first time I saw it at the cinema, I just sat and watched in heartbreaking awe at the wonderfull acting, Heath Ledger is a talent that has been too long hidden. He, as did Jake Gyllenhaal, shone, they deserve every award they win.
This film has some bits that are hard to watch, simply because they throw into sharp relief how intolerante society is of anyone who dosent "conform", although the movie doesnt go out to preach or convert, its just a beautifully told, wonderfully acted achingly sad love story, that, if you let it in will haunt you for a life time.
I recall a short story version of Brokeback Mountain many years ago in a major periodical (alas, I can't recall the periodical). I had an idea that it would, in the fullness of time, become a major motion picture, and that it has. It is an award-winning film already, and looks set for some sort of Oscar recognition. The film has garnered more Oscar nominations than any other this year.
However, in the hype surrounding the film, those interested would be wise to look at the book. There is much more depth here than in the film, much more about the interior workings of the main characters and what they must endure. This is ultimately not a love story, as the marketing has been spinning the film, but rather an expose on the dangers and drawbacks of living in the closet. For the purposes of this story, Annie Proulx has juxtaposed two diametrically opposite cultures in the American psyche - the gay culture and the cowboy culture (although history is, as it often is, in fact rather different from what the Hollywood-created current remembrance of it is). One comes to wonder at the resistance that all characters seem to have for breaking free of their bonds; ultimately, none of the relationships are satisfying, and there is an emotional desolation as wide and spare as brush land and prairies of the American West.
The lead characters meet while working for the summer as wranglers and watchers over herds. They form a bond that renews at regular intervals during their lives, lives that go on to other, more traditional and socially acceptable settings. Each gets married, each has children, each embarks (in one way or another) in a working life that would seem to preclude the other, but yet the tie that binds them draws them together again on a regular basis.
The closet theme is heightened in the lead characters, but in fact serves as a metaphor for readers who might not fit in that particular closet - we all have skeletons in our closets, it seems, and in fact, we all have our own closets in which we hide and live out part of our lives.
This theme is played in out in several scenes of the film - Ennis Del Mar finding his shirt intertwined with Jack's shirt in Jack's closet, which Ennis then proceeds to put into his own closet.
The last scene is perhaps the most powerful of all, drifting to a final image. Ennis' daughter, having announced her marriage plans, drives off into the dusty plain; Ennis is living in isolation in his own trailer which has next to no furniture (his daughter comments that he needs a chair); and the very final shot is of a closet door, kept closed until Ennis is alone, with a view of the mountains in the far distance just outside the window beyond.
In terms of overall cinematography, this is a beautiful film. Ang Lee's direction has provided wonderful panoramic views of the mountains and the plains, the not-so-wild west of America, mid-century. This is a world very different from either coast - the trends of the cities in New England and California have little effect on life here, which goes on generation after generation with an unrelenting sameness.
Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal, fresh from his role as a marine in 'Jarhead') and Heath Ledger (whose film 'Casanova', playing at the same time in the same cinema in my town, cast him in a very different role) play the leads of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, two down-on-their-luck wranglers who get a summer job camping out with sheep herds in the mountains - the kind of 24 hour/7 day-per-week job that virtually nobody wants. Jack is the extrovert, whereas to call Ennis an introvert might win the Oscar for understatement. At one point, Jack points this out, after a conversation that only lasted for about a minute.
Jack Twist: 'That's more words than you've spoke in the past two weeks.'
Ennis Del Mar: 'Hell, that's the most I've spoke in a year.'
Ledger's portrayal of Ennis is remarkable in that Ennis seems to be almost inarticulate. Everything is said in a grumble, a low-level, low-syllable-count manner. Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Jack as the ants-in-his-pants, high-energy bronco buster cowboy is also very enthralling. Jack's passion for many things comes through, and through the film we come to discover (as Ennis comes to discover) that this passion comes with a high price.
Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams play the wives of Jack and Ennis, respectively. Both want 'regular' lives, and both discover there is more to their husbands' relationship than fishing-buddy friendship in different ways. In some ways, the film reminded me of another film, 'Same Time Next Year', in which a couple gets together on a regular basis while maintaining stable, family relationships elsewhere. However, there is a price to be paid for leading such double lives, and we see this manifested in different ways in the lives of Ennis, Jack, and their wives and children. Again, the issue of the closet comes into play.
Of course, the big 'issue' for the film is homosexuality and homophobia. That this takes place within the almost-sacred genre of the American Western also adds to the heightened interest - the mythology of the American cowboy being a super-macho figure has already been developed as a gay stereotype by such groups as the Village People and what sociologists might call costume-culture communities. The unspoken secret that rarely made even a mention on Hollywood screens was that cowboys, being isolated much of the time, and in male-only communities when they did have company, almost certainly had a higher incidence of same-sex expression than we have come to believe through the mythology.
Ennis and Jack do put physical and emotional expression to their passion and to their love for each other, but societal expectations and personal feelings (what some term internalised homophobia) work to keep them apart and leading separate (and dual) lives throughout the twenty-year span of the film.
There is no happy ending to this film - I left the cinema with a feeling about as desolate as the dry and dusty plains shown in many of the scenes. I found bits of the music score coming back to me for days afterwards, and each time this happened, I would feel a bit more sombre, and a little bit lost for words. The original themes by Gustavo Santaolalla and Marcelo Zarvos are very well done, and this is a soundtrack I mean to get.
on 11 August 2008
When ever I say one of my favourite films is BrokeBack Mountain people look at me like I'm crazy (Mainly because I'm 16, A girl and a massive fan of brainless teenfilms or mindless action films)
I saw this film a few months back on Channel Four, I have never sat that long in a seat without moving only to get another tissue ,except for when I watch Lord Of The Rings, I was captivated from start to finish and when my parents came home from their night out they were shocked to see me cryign my eyes out on the sofa. This film is one the most romantic and hreatwarming films I have ever seen in my life. It's one of those films that stays with you for days after watching it. A week after watching it I went out and brought it on DVD...I have since watched it 65 times...and I still cry every single time.
The scenery is incredible, it's so breath taking and beautiful.
Heath and Jake were simply amazing from start to finish and the final line "Jack...I swear" was just heart-wrenching....
I loved this film soooo much and it will be a classic from now til the end of time.
on 17 January 2013
Longing and loneliness have never been brought to the screen as effectively as they are in Ang Lee's extraordinary film of Annie Proulx's equally magnificent novella. The story is simple, and has been told in reviews here umpteen times - two cowboys in 60s Wyoming fall in love over a summer of herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain, and this love - which neither can or will give name to - permeates their hearts, minds and souls over the next twenty years.
A director lacking Lee's sensitivity could have made this a crass shambles, but Lee's direction, and the spectacular cinematography, ensures that the experience is profoundly moving. Likewise he manages to elicit performances that are simply spot-on from all involved.
Jake Gyllenhall is superb as Jack Twist; as the more extroverted of the two he allows Ennis inside his desperate heart, making plans for a future for the two which he knows are impossible, but refusing - or unable - to allow his feelings to be withheld. But it's Ledger's film. His Ennis Del Mar has been disarticulated by society's rules that forbid men to express any emotions other than anger - but while he cannot speak of his love and need for Jack, he understanding the reality, and it screams in total silence from the core of his soul in every frame. Rarely has an actor ever been able to say more by saying less. Jack might be able to satiate his physical cravings by "going over the border" to Mexico, and in his roles as husband and father, but by the end of the film its clear - Ledger's Ennis will never love again.
This is not a film about romance, or sex, or even being gay. It's about love between two people at its deepest, most crippling (and perhaps, in another time or place, most liberating). As such, it packs a colossal impact.
A true classic, worthy of watching over and over again.
This is a true masterpiece. It's a beautiful love story between two men set in 1963-1980's against the spectacular backdrop of Brokeback Mountain.
Innis, (Ledger), and Jack, (Gyllenhaal), meet in the summer of 1963 where they get jobs working herding sheep up the mountain. They become fast friends although Innis is a much quieter person than Jack. Pretty soon they're up all night drinking and laughing, until one night they find themselves sharing the tent that's meant for only one, you can pretty much guess what happens next but, what transpires is done in a very tasteful manner.
I won't go any further with the plot because it would be a shame to spoil it for you. Just know that my 17 year old son watched it with me and although he was a little uncomfortable at the start, he was soon as glued to it as I was. He gave it a 9/10 stars and he's usually pretty harsh when it comes to rating films!
This is such a touching account of love that it really does tug at your heart strings. The supporting cast are brilliant too, especially Michelle Williams who plays Alma, Innis' wife, and there's a smaller part filled by Anne Hathaway as Jack' wife. Also we have Randy Quaid, (brother to Dennis if you didn't already know that!), who plays the young Jack and Innis' boss. He's perfect, nothing like his usual loony self which is great to see.
To wrap it up then, buy this movie if you like a good story of love and passion all told with a sympathy for the characters. This is by no means a romantic comedy, but I promise you'll enjoy it just as much.
on 17 October 2008
Perhaps what the Ang Lee's movie should be praised for is its tone. The intimate plot overwhelms the immense scenery. A metaphor for what you should do in life: Don't let opportunities pass you by. No matter what, love rules our lives and our decisions. Jack Twist knew what he wanted and never got it. Enis del Mar, wasn't sure and lost it forever. The supposedly undertone works marvelously since all the inner feelings are for the audience to feel. We don't see tear jerking scenes (so easily there could be a "throwing of the ashes" scene over Brokeback... but, fortunately, it never happens) but all the sensitiveness is contained within the silences. Never before what isn't said is more important that what is told. It's a movie that will haunt you for a long time. But that's good; I don't want to let it go any way...