Monday, February 13, 2006

FILM: Brokeback Mountain

Saw the much hyped Brokeback Mountain on Sunday.

The question remains: did I cry?

No. And I wondered, for those that did: why do they cry? What part of them relate so poignantly to the story that they wept?

I saw it as a story of damaged lives. It’s about people so haunted by Brokeback Mountain that they make choices that crippled themselves and those who loved them.

What is Brokeback Mountain?

For Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist – it seems Brokeback Mountain represented a happiness that they are forever trying to reclaim. And so caught up with reclaiming a lost paradise they inevitably lose sight of what is in front of them.

Or perhaps, so weighted down by the wreckage they made of their married lives, they needed to believe in a return to Brokeback Mountain.

Del Mar continues to work at his ranch jobs. He refuses to try for other occupations that might allow him to earn enough to support his family. He breaks the heart of the waitress who really seems to have loved him. When his eldest daughter Alma Jr, in trying to escape an unhappy home, asks to stay with her father. Again, he could only disappoint her.

And Jack Twist and his wife? Towards the end, we see a cold, almost indifferent Lureen (Anne Hathaway) informing Ennis Del Mar the details of her husband’s death. By now middle-aged, with a blowsy blonde hair job and vulgar, redneck jewelry. She is too often seen at her account books counting up the profits - it’s hard to sympathise with Anne Hathaway’s character. But she wasn’t always this cold. She was wild and young and sexy like hell – a cowgirl in hot-red riding hard and fast. And she smiled when she first met her husband. A flashy, seductive smile. Something happened to turn her so brittle.

I don’t see it as just a story of a doomed gay love affair. I find that simplistic. Perhaps that is why I failed to cry. It is poignant, but so very human. We break the hearts of those who loved us, because our hearts were broken long ago. We do it everyday.

Del Mar tells Twist, "If we can’t change it, we just have to stand it." But he fails to see the third option – just let go. So they hold on, and their lives are crushed by their Brokeback Mountain.

It is rare to find successful Hollywood movies where characters learn from their loss and are able to let go, to move on with their lives. Perhaps it is less dramatic and therefore less Oscar-friendly.

In spite of the possible backlash, I will still state this: perhaps the best thing Jack Twist could have done for Ennis Del Mar was to die. Jack Twist’s death forced a conclusion that neither men were strong enough to make.

After Twist’s death, all Del Mar have left of Brokeback Mountain is the postcard and the bloodstained shirts. But there is the part when Alma Jr drives up to Del Mar’s trailer. She is getting married, and she wants him to be there. Perhaps for the first time Ennis Del Mar finally sees what is truly important. He will be there for his daughter.

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