Saturday, 20 March 2010

Girl's Don't Fall In Love With Fun.

Brokeback Mountain... I don't know what to say about it. I really don't. I've watched it so many times, and every time it burrows its way inside me and makes me feel things I didn't realise I could feel. Truly.

I remember reading the short story on which this is based, many years ago, long before the film was released. I'd been following the development of the film for a while as well, hearing different names attached to it, noting the length of time between when it wrapped principal photography and finally appeared at Venice. I just kept waiting and waiting, having heard that the script had been touted for years in Hollywood as the best script that would never get made (got that wrong, didn't they!)

What struck me when I first saw the film in late 2005 after almost bursting into tears when trying to get a taxi in 45 degree celcius Sydney heat to a media screening of the film saw me arrive just in the nick of time, was that the film plays so remarkably close to the original short story by Annie Proulx. Quite remarkably. The story is, after all, short - my memory is telling me it runs somewhere in the vicinity of forty pages. The film is somewhat longer - a little over two hours. Definitely not even a short feature film. But screenwriters Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, and director Ang Lee, hone and hone the film, allowing every second to count while stretching them out to the lifetime of the characters, giving Jack (Jake Gyllenhall) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) so much room to breathe at and to each other, and away from each other, to their wives Lureen (Anne Hathaway) and Alma (Michelle Williams), their children, their families. The land itself becomes a character, imposing beauty with the sharp edge of hostility everywhere they went.

But it's all about their love, and the trauma that brings to the two. It is quite obviously a gay love story - they are two men - but it is really just like any story of illicit love. What they do could get them killed, in much the same way as Romeo and Juliet operated. They hide their love and try and go on as normal, and the most overtly political statement of the film is a look at the destruction to the traditional family unit that those lies cause.

But Brokeback Mountain doesn't set out to be political. It is a love story between two cowboys in a time when a love story between two guys wasn't even a possibility out in Wyoming. And that love story is heartbreakingly beautiful. A huge credit has to go to Ossana and McMurtry for the stunning screenplay, with definite credit to Proulx as much of the dialogue did originate in her short story, and the lines spoken are oft apt to reach into your chest and stop your heart. The actors took a bow of some description with Oscar noms for Ledger, Gyllenhall and Williams, though supports from Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini and Anna Faris, as well as Hathaway in her breakaway from her previous children-orientated roles, are notable. Lee's touch directing the picture saw him walk away with the golden man, and it truly is one of the most gently and simply directed films I have seen, but with power running through every scene. Gustavo Santaolalla created the instantly recognisable original score, which I often find myself quietly listening to in moments of reflection, and Rodrigo Prieto captures the images with serene beauty, as well as pulling off a memorable momentary cameo as a Mexican prostitute.

This feels like it rambles all over the place, formless, but that's how the film makes me feel. And there are so many quotes, phrases and words from the film that could be been referenced here in place of structure, but that would only serve to cheapen the power of them when spoken in the picture. Just let it be said that the final scene, the final unfinished sentence inside Ennis' trailer, is just about the only scene that, whether I'm reading the short story or watching the film, will floor me every time. Never a dry eye, and that is unlike any other film I've seen. 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. do you know which scene is my favourite one from BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? The one when Heath comes to Michelle Williams' home, and has dinner with her new husband and her, and then they have a talk in the kitchen while she's washing the dishes. The moment when they start fighting and she starts yelling at him shows probably the best performance Michelle has ever given. The facial expressions and her eyes are just stunning in that moment.