by Melanie Juliano
“I wish I knew how to quit you.” – Jack (or Melanie about this film)
Why, oh, why do I continue to torment the sentimental part of my heart? The answer’s simple: Heath Ledger’s finely shaped behind….ah, or is it Jake Gyllenhaal’s angel lips? No, I’m totally kidding, I guess. It must be Ang Lee’s beautifully made film Brokeback Mountain who selfishly keeps dragging me into its somber whirlpool of fascinating images.
The piece follows two fully-grown cowboys, Ennis (Ledger) and Jack (Gyllenhaal), through their wistful love “transaction” for roughly two decades. During the summer of 1963, Ennis and Jack are hired to be ranch hands, herding cattle on their handsome horses across the mountains of Wyoming. As the weeks progress, the two begin to sense a dangerous bond (considered to be by the public) forming between them. And before you know it, your dream of the two hunks becoming intimate, passionately fills up the screen with close-up shots that inform you of what a “true love’s kiss” actually is. Hold on, before I go on with the plot any further, a shout-out to the impressive cinematography needs to happen. Rodrigo Prieto’s choices of movement pay good tribute to the emotion being driven throughout the film. The fact that you could see the actors’ pupils dilate during a crying scene makes getting uninitiated with the characters impossible. Also, the stunning scenery combined with the brilliant camera angles….let’s just say, Yoda would approve.
Back to the saddle again! After Ennis and Jack’s steamy encounter, the cowboys invest the rest of their time in romantic gazes, blanket sharing, and occasional skinny dipping off a cliff. Eventually, the summer comes to a halt, leaving Ennis and Jack in a predicament. Being that the film is set during the 1960s, Ennis’ decision to break it off with Jack becomes the only liable option in leading a “hate-free” life. This “break-up” scene, in particular, includes a special close-up shot of Gylleenhaal’s face, hopelessly staring down his soul mate, barely making his way across the sandy street, through the rear-view mirror. You’ll see this sort of languishing stare by Gyllenhaal about every time he shares a scene with Ledger. The gaze is crucial in understanding Jack’s feelings of unconditional love towards the blonde-haired cowboy. The next half hour or so is spent with Ennis’ wife Alma, played by the dependable Michelle Williams, and Jack’s soon-to-be wife Lureen (Anne Hathaway). It exhibits the formation of Ennis’ and Jack’s new families and lives. Yes, I know, I wanted to skip those scenes and get back to my love-struck cowboys. But while viewing these parts a few times, I discovered that they’re just as intriguing and important as the “together” scenes. They undoubtedly show just how agonizing it is to be closed off from the thing you’re craving for most. You’d think that the two of them were on withdrawal from some high-staked drugs. This proves that absence does indeed, make the heart grow fonder.
Just as you find little to no hope left in our boys ever meeting again, Ang Lee the Great, does his noble magic and grants Ennis with a postcard from Jack “fucking” Twist! Of course Ennis is immediately dumbstruck by his old “pal’s” signature and uncontrollably schedules a meet up for the two. Through the guidance of the astonishing score by Gustavo Santaolalla, the passion that was once voiced comes back in immeasurably full-force. Ledger hauls the willing Gyllenhaal into a corner and both participate in an even more powerful, heart-wrenching encounter than before, mind you they haven’t seen each other in about four years. You can literally feel the intensity of their connection piercing through your veins with a few shivers added every time Jack does that well-known gaze thing. But again, just as your heart is about to burst full of rainbows, Lee does his now, dark magic, and places Alma at the front door in full view of the elegant face-sucking. No matter how hard you try, and oh yes I’ve attempted to do so, you can’t help but express sympathy towards the baby-faced woman. This is where the excellence that is Michelle Williams comes into effect.
The “fishing buddies”, well, not so much the darker haired one, then agree on meeting up at Brokeback Mountain a few times each year. Note that nature plays a crucial part in this story. The mountain happens to be the most important symbol in being that it represents the strain in their relationship. Brokeback is gargantuan and unattainable, depicting a place and time where the two can never reclaim the peaceful love they once shared their first summer together. Ledger’s and Gyllenhaal’s stellar performances of the “What we got now, is Brokeback Mountain!” semi break-up scene shines through the print and blows you about a billion times through the chest. And when you believe it possibly can’t get any more unfortunate, Ennis receives a call from Lureen, Jack’s wife, informing him that his kindred spirit has passed on. He ends up visiting the Twist house and manages to participate in a conversation with Jack’s parents, something he wouldn’t dare do in the past. Ennis steadily makes his way upstairs, pouring himself into Jack’s room. With the touch of Ledger’s hand, the entire screen is bombarded with emotion, screaming to be let free through the affectionate grasp of the bloody shirt owned by his darling. This is by far the utmost sentimental scene in the film. The way Ledger handles the beloved belongings and the looks he contributes are so well served, especially his tender gaze at the Brokeback postcard. Yes, it’s an unbelievably heart breaking scene to lay eyes on, but I can’t think of any stronger way to end the film. It leaves you with questions only you know the answers to. Brokeback Mountain ultimately focuses in on the hardships of perilous love and the loneliness that it delivers, forcing one to deal with ignorance and consequences. It’s not just “That Gay Cowboy Flick”….it’s something beautiful.