Ennis Del Mar: If you can't fix it, Jack, you gotta stand it.
Jack Twist: For how long?
Ennis Del Mar: For as long as we can ride it. There ain't no reins on this one.
Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee and produced by Diana Ossana and James Schamus. It was adapted from a short story written by Annie Proulx by the same name. It stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams among others.
The movie depicts a strained, sexual relationship between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), two men belonging to the rural realm of Western America.
2005 was not a queer-friendly time, so for Ang Lee to go out on a limb and create a movie as remarkable and open as Brokeback Mountain caused a stir in the fairly heterosexual nature of Hollywood. The LGBT representation in mainstream media was not as progressive as it is in this day and age. In a way, the love and critical acclaim gained by Brokeback Mountain pushed the idea of mainstreaming queer culture into the green zone, since the film was not only approved by critics but also worked its magic on the box office, earning a whopping $178 million worldwide against its $14 million budget. The movie attained 71 awards and had an additional 52 nominations.
Anyone with a shred of knowledge about the United States would be aware that the rural society of America is heavily conservative, with centuries of violence and oppressive laws under its belt. Hence the idea of depicting two cowboys from the Southwestern area is an act of defiance in itself. It helps normalise the notion of queer identity in the hidden regions of conservative America. It is challenging to take up a conservative and somewhat backward reality and subvert its dimensions to suit a more progressive audience. So needless to say the movie did not earn many accolades from the regions and people it depicts and failed to change their mentality towards the LGBT community. But it does not fail to show how love doesn’t understand boundaries or cultures or gender, if it wants to grow, it can grow between two complete strangers made to traverse through the harsh extremities of the Brokeback Mountain (which isn’t a real mountain apparently, since the movie is set in Wyoming but shot in Canada).
Although the movie did not happen to change homophobic outlooks into positive support, Ang Lee’s targeted audience delta wave of love and sympathy towards the characters of the film. The relationship between Ennis and Jack is a reality many queer folk face, with long years of closeting and separation due to fear and anxieties. The film perfectly encapsulates the tussle between love, responsibilities and the pain of not being able to live one’s truth. Ennis and Jack are two different types of men, with Jack wanting to be as open as he could and Ennis always fearing the consequences of his dalliance with Jack. Both men marry women and remain in the closet throughout their lives yet live off their fantasies with each other whenever time permits, though that never feels enough for Jack, who wants to spend his life with Ennis, together in a ranch far away. Jack uses a more fearless method to cope with his hidden identity, by having sex with men other than Ennis, all the while having a wife and a child. For him, his need and desire to be with Ennis exults within him a strong sexual fire that he extinguishes by visiting brothels. But for Ennis, his experience of witnessing violence and hatred for queer men holds him back from living his truth and forces him to conform to his responsibilities as a husband and father, although he might not want to keep that up. His existence offers him no choice to get away from his mundane life, even after his divorce. His fear keeps him grounded to the unfair reality that is his life and he never tries to break away from the boundaries put on him by society. Jack’s belief in the longevity of their relationship is not reciprocated by Ennis due to his confining fear which results in many fights between the two. The two men display contrasting realities of what it means to be a man in love with a man. Both take different approaches to settle the heaviness on their chests that is resulted by their separation from each other.
Ledger and Gyllenhaal beautifully express the rawness of these emotions. For two straight men to take up such a challenging role and then emote in such a profound manner displays the sheer talent and skills these two actors possess. Gyllenhaal to this date applauds the direction and writing of the movie and holds his experience of filming with Ledger close to his heart. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway also do proper justice to their roles, playing the wife of a man that loves another man. Every actor involved in the making of the film did not think the movie would be loved and appreciated with the intensity and warmth that it is and only talk praise of Ang Lee’s dedication to the story and his process of film making. It is awe-inspiring how magnificently the cinematography of the movie embodies the pain and pleasure of separation. The slow burn quality of the film captures the true meaning behind the years-long separation that Ennis and Jack have to go through. It seems as if the time won’t ever end, it stretches and keeps stretching to the point of monotony. But when they reunite, their scenes together move fast, there’s electricity in the air and then in an instant the scene is over