27. Brokeback Mountain

BrokebackMountain1How do we make the tragedy of homosexual lovers who cannot be, a palpable situation to otherwise apathetic heteros, whose love lives are certain? Well, in Brokeback Mountain, a very real ‘trope’ of emotional violence as occurring in everyday life is depicted in period Americana — that two gay men cannot be destroys their respective families, and indeed their wives are the victims.

Arguably, because even if we take this more cynical read, the tragedy still resonates in the characters of Ennis Delmar and Jack fuckin’ Twist. I just can’t get over how clever it is, and ultimately, how political the film is. It cannot tell this story without involving its cultural context, and doing so is a productive pursuit. Does it have an ‘agenda?’ Yep, but boy. It’s verbiage like that that makes me confident in my writing abilities and my ability to function reasonably in society.

It’s a long tale, a story that spans many years, coming in and out of episodes in these two men’s lives who could be their true selves on Brokeback Mountain, but could never recapture that in the real world. There’s a kind of mystical depth there, like a fairy tale embedded in period drama.

Talk about an interesting cast. Anne Hathaway plays a quiet, almost background role, Anna Faris makes an uncharacteristic appearance, alongside Randy Quaid in that respect, Kate Mara shows up in an early role, and Linda Cardellini is blonde.

For me, it’s Heath Ledger that’s the big stunner. When I first saw The Dark Knight, I didn’t really get it. The Joker is not my favorite Batman villain, and Batman is not my favorite superhero, and superheroes are not my favorite subgenre, but I did recognize that the performance was good. Problem is, I’d never seen a Heath Ledger performance before, or after — until Brokeback Mountain.

These two roles demonstrate a range I still can’t process. I cannot see Heath Ledger in the Joker — it’s no longer a good performance, it’s a transcendent one. In Brokeback Mountain, he’s appropriately more restrained, a slowly dying light under classic western grit.

Applied to the scenes themselves, that general approach is what allows for such memorable moments in tension or tragedy. Pent up emotion is a motif here, and when it bubbles over, like during Thanksgiving, it’s a powerful cap on a tense build-up.

And then we return to Jack and Ennis. In the end, this is a film about these two, and their final moments together are heartbreaking. So much time spent on other things, they’re angry, but don’t know how or where to express it. They aim at each other, against the towering American landscape.

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