Thursday, 22 December 2016

Film Review: Adaptation & Transcription - "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)

Fig 1

Ang Lee’s romantic drama film “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) is an adaptation of the short story of the same name, written by Annie Proulx in 1997. “Brokeback Mountain” has also been showcased as an opera in Madrid in 2014. 

The story tells of two cowboys that cross paths when looking for work. After an awkward beginning, the both introduce themselves to each other and begin work rounding sheep in the wilderness.
The two get to know each other over the weeks, and are both getting tired of the boring diet of beans. 

Fig 2

Ennis kills a moose and the two celebrate. Their relationship deepens as Ennis joining Jack in bed due to the cold, and the two engage in sex, but in the morning, do not talk about what they did.
Their work on the ranch ends and they go their separate ways; Ennis marrying his fiancée and having two children, and Jack has a son. 

Four years pass until the meet again and when they do, they passionately kiss, but Ennis’ wife spots them. Eventually, Ennis and his wife divorce and Jack approaches Ennis that they could live together, but Ennis wouldn’t want to abandon his children. Tragically, Ennis learns that Jack had died, but in his own mind envisioned him being beaten to death, much like he was. Ennis goes to Jack’s parents’ house and upon entering Jacks room, sees the blood-stained shirt hanging from their first encounter in Brokeback where they fought each other, and realises he kept it all this time. The film ends with Ennis’ daughter asking her father for his blessing in her marriage. 

Fig 3

The film depicts many emotions, from happiness, tension and grief, and Ang Lee does a terrific job in creating the adaptation from the original story. The quotes from the story often match with what the characters say on screen, such as when Ennis says “You know I ain’t queer”, Jack replying “me neither”, and Jack stating “It’s nobody’s business but ours.” In the short story, Ennis says “I’m not no queer’, and Jack jumped in with ‘Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours”. 

Fig 4

Although centred about a homosexual relationship, there have been disputes that Jack and Ennis are actually bisexual, or that there should be no sexual classification at all. As Roger Ebert describes: "Brokeback Mountain" has been described as "a gay cowboy movie," which is a cruel simplification. It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel. Their tragedy is universal. It could be about two women, or lovers from different religious or ethnic groups -- any "forbidden" love.” (Ebert, 2005) 

Fig 5

The film also does not flow with what an audience would expect – going from homosexual to heterosexual romance, fighting, prejudice, marriage and death; Damon Wise explains: “It’s here that Lee’s film truly announces its intentions, and for a good portion of the drama Jack and Ennis are far apart; in fact, they don’t even communicate for four years. In the meantime, they settle into drudgery and roles they resent, but Lee’s masterstroke is to pull the camera back from their interior world. What sounds on paper like a traditional gay independent movie does not follow the usual formula and actually gives voice to its audience’s prejudices and apprehensions.” (Wise, 2014)

Overall, this film is widely enjoyed by the audience, and upon experiencing the film, you will know why. 


Ebert, R. 2005  (Accessed on 22/12/2016)
(Accessed on 22/12/2016)

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