Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American love story/drama film directed by Ang Lee. It was adapted from the 1997 short story of the same name by author Annie Proulx, where it originally ran in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997.
Release dates were September 2, 2005 (Venice International Film Festival), December 9, 2005 (United States) and December 23, 2005 (Canada). The film had a budget of $14 million and went on to gross $178.1 million.
Released by Focus Films, in association with River Road Entertainment, the screenplay was written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Roberta Maxwell, Peter McRobbie, Kate Mara, David Harbour, Linda Cardellini, Anna Fariss and Randy Quaid, and it depicts the complex emotional and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1983.
December 9, 2015 marks the 10TH Anniversary of the debut of Brokeback Mountain.
Jack Twist, from Lightning Flat, near the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from Sage, near the Utah line, were looking for work and looking to try to save money to buy spreads of their own.
They meet up at the office of Joe Aguirre where he hired them on to care for sheep in Wyoming.
Austere and stoic in their demeanor, they both epitomized the Marlboro Man of the rural West.
While they are waiting for Aguirre to come, Ennis nervously looks down, but, Jack on the other hand looks right at Ennis, all the while striking a pose. I wonder if the movie’s creators knew about the dance known as vogue, because Jack sure did strike a pose in that scene.
Many people call this the “gay cowboy movie”.
Since Jack and Ennis were herding sheep, I prefer to call them shepherds who tended to the sheep, and watched their flock by night.
Jack was the sheep herder, and Ennis was the camp tender.
While working weeks with the herd, and enduring a humdrum food situation, Jack and Ennis switched off on job tasks, with Ennis shepherding the sheep, while Jack stayed in camp as tender. One cold night, Jack tells Ennis to come inside their tent and sleep, which he does, and here is where the movie’s tagline, “Love is a force of nature” begins.
Jack and Ennis make love. Not tentatively, but furtively. The next morning, Ennis, who had gone to bed with a hangover, awakes to find himself inside the tent. Nervous and fearful of what transpired the night before, he rides out of camp to tend to the sheep. But the sheep have been attacked in the night by coyotes, and the shepherds will have to answer for this.
The next night they become more comfortable in their lovemaking.
Soon, they must bring the sheep down from pasture, and Aguirre lets them know he was not satisfied in how they did their shepherding of the sheep. Angry at losing a month’s pay, Ennis sulks. Jack tries to cajole him. They get into a fight, causing blood to fly and get on their clothes, most notably Ennis’ shirt. They pack up their gear to leave Brokeback Mountain. Before they leave, Ennis wonders what happened to his shirt; Jack mumbles an answer on the whereabouts of the shirt.
Jack and Ennis part ways, Jack reluctantly, and Ennis with trepidation. As Jack drives away, looking at Ennis in the rear view mirror, his face is of sadness and longing.
But, it is Ennis’ responses that is the most gut-wrenching.
The agony and misery of suppressing his love for Jack nearly tears Ennis apart that he reacts violently to their separation.
Ennis marries Alma, his sweetheart. Jack weds Lureen, a barrel racer he met at a rodeo.
The two men go on with their lives, Ennis in Wyoming, Jack in Texas, their fathering children, and settling into married life, until one day Ennis receives a postcard from Jack, and the flame of love is rekindled, and they are reunited.
Unbeknownst to them, Alma has seen their passionate embrace and kissing.
Soon Ennis and Jack are off on their “fishing buddy” trips through the years, with Jack driving up to visit Ennis and vacation at their beloved Brokeback Mountain.
But, Jack wants more from the relationship. He wants a life with Ennis. Ennis is terrified of moving in with Jack, and at the last time they meet together they argue.
Sometime later, Ennis receives a postcard returned to him.
It is stamped “DECEASED”.
Calling up Lureen to inquire about Jack’s death, Ennis finds out, according to Lureen, that Jack died from an accident while changing a tire. But, Ennis, who was traumatized by seeing the dead body of a man killed for being a homosexual when his father took him to view the remains, believes that Jack instead was murdered by a group of gay-bashers.
Lureen tells Ennis that half of Jack’s cremated remains were buried in the family plot in Childress, Texas, and the other half were sent to his parent’s home. In the following scene, while conversing with Ennis, she begins to realize she is talking to her husband’s lover.
Not only that, her behaviour indicates that she realized Jack really told her about an actual place—Brokeback Mountain—and in Lureen’s not having Jack’s ashes scattered over Brokeback Mountain, she in essence denied Jack his last wish. Her having half of Jack’s ashes interred into the cemetery in Childress, and her sending the other half to Jack’s parents was just as much a travesty as if committing a King Solomon and the baby dishonor.
Visiting Jack’s parents, he entreats them to let him take the rest of Jack’s remains to scatter them over Brokeback Mountain, since this was Jack’s favourite place and his last wish. But, Jack’s father refuses, since he was filled with contempt that his son was a homosexual. Mama Twist, on the other hand, shows compassion to Ennis and lets him take a memento of Jack’s to keep.
As for Dada Twist; the less said about him, the better.
Ennis then goes up to Jack’s room and finds something he had long since forgotten about.
It is the missing shirt that Ennis questioned Jack about.
I sometimes wonder if Mama Twist knew of the two shirts in Jack’s closet, and if she hid them in the back of the closet, after coming upon them accidentally. Her telling Ennis to go upstairs to Jack’s room, and her saying, “I left his room like it was when he was a boy, and he (Jack) appreciated that”, was most telling to me. Especially when Ennis comes downstairs with Jack’s shirt; Mama Twist gave Ennis a knowing look as if to say, “I’m glad you found what I wanted you to find. I’m glad you found the shirts.”
She saw that Ennis loved Jack, and she was willing to let him have something that belonged to Jack.
Holding the shirt close, Ennis breathes in and mourns the life, the missed chance he could have had with Jack.
I first saw Brokeback Mountain in the theater when it was released. At the time, the movie did not resonate with me. Yes, it was about two men who loved each other on Brokeback Mountain, but, it was not until ten years later I wanted to see this movie I had not seen in a decade. It was then after looking online into the making of Brokeback Mountain, that I realized that December 9, 2015 was the ten-year anniversary of its release.
Seeing the movie again, I saw the pathos in how these two men could never love each other in 1963, at least not in peace.
Not until the historic cessation of the medicalization of homosexuality as a form of insanity/mental illness by the psychiatric profession, did the century-long history of institutional oppression end, only concluding in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (under constant pressure from LGBT activists) elected to remove homosexuality from its DSM-II nomenclature of pathology.
Not with the laws against sodomy, as it was called, that would land them both in jail, or worse, as it was considered a felony and punishable with a prison sentence. It was not until the U.S. Supreme Court decision with Lawrence vs. the State of Texas, in 2003, that consensual homosexual sex was decriminalized.
Not until the United States Supreme Court 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples.
Not until Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015), the landmark United States Supreme Court case ruling in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
That Ennis was so terrified of their being found out, it froze him into a dread of opening himself up to Jack and fully loving him. Jack had no qualms about loving and wanting to be with Ennis, but Ennis’ fear that somebody’s eyes are watching paralyzed him into fits of rage and anger to where he violently manhandled Alma when she let him know that she knew about his trysts with Jack when they were supposed to be on fishing trips.
Even Ennis’ love with Jack was so rough and at the time they left Brokeback Mountain, he beat Jack because he could not love Jack publicly and openly.
This displaced anger eventually caught up to Ennis when he was soundly whipped by a driver he got into an argument with when the driver narrowly missed hitting Ennis with his truck.
When I first saw BBM, I thought that Ennis was such a domestic-abusing-beater-of-Alma-and-Jack bitch. The way he treated Alma and Jack and Cassie. But after seeing the movie again, I saw it with different eyes. I saw where Ennis was hurting and suffering in his love for Jack, just as much as Jack was suffering from being unable to live with Ennis on the ranch Jack wanted so much to get for them.
Years ago, when I was between 18-20-years-of-age, I remember watching a news program about gays/lesbians wanting to have legal rights to their deceased partners estate, and I remember my Mother, while watching it with me, said that it was not natural that men should be together just like a man and woman. She had no problem with gays having legal rights, but, on the issue of men being with another man, she was not for that.
I remember saying “Maybe it is a different kind of love. A love, no less or more, but, a different kind of love.”
My Mother was quiet, and we finished looking at the program.
Jump start to years later, we are again watching TV and this time it is the movie Philadelphia, starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, released December 23, 1993.
The scene where Joann Woodward says “I did not raise my children to sit at the back of the bus”, obviously pissed my Mother off (can’t say that I blame her), but, it is when Hanks’s character, Andrew Beckett is fired for being gay and having AIDs, and he is desperately trying to find an attorney to represent him, that he goes to the office of Joe Miller, played by Denzel Washington. During the course of their consultation, through hems and haws, not wanting to represent Beckett, Miller says that he cannot take the case. Finally, my Mother has had enough, to wit she says:
“Oh, go on take the case and represent the man.”
She was able to see the sadness, desperation and rejection in Beckett’s eyes that no lawyer, even an ambulance chaser like Joe Miller, wanted to give him the time of day.
Both films showed the humanity of LGBT people. Both films showed that LGBT people had needs, wants and desires.
The hetero-normative world that existed for Jack and Ennis had no mercy or compassion for the love between Jack and Ennis. It did not tolerate nor could fathom two men living together, much less their loving each other. It would sneer at, attack, and destroy any life that Jack and Ennis would try to build for themselves.
It would be the rope. The beatings. The curses and invectives hurled: “Get that fag!” “Beat that queer!” “Kill him!”
The world that Jack and Ennis lived in would allow only one sexual orientation and being, and that was the cruelest blow to the life that lay ahead for Ennis.
The world where Jack and Ennis had to live a lie about their relationship and love for each other. The world where they had to marry to give outer appearances of acceptable masculinity. A world where their living a lie ultimately hurt Jack, Ennis, Alma, Lureen, Cassie, Alma, Jr., Bobby and Jenny. A world where Ennis’ extreme fear of discovery caused him to lose the one and only person he truly loved, and who truly loved him—a world where they could not freely be themselves, a world where Ennis ended up alone, sad and miserable due to the society in which they lived.
True, he had his daughters Alma, Jr. and Jenny’s love, and they were the world to him, but, because of the time Ennis and Jack lived in, he could not love Jack unconditionally before the world. And all that he had left of his time with Jack were their two shirts, embraced in each other.
But, the world intruded on theirs where it filled Ennis with fear and dread to where he shut down and swallowed the longings that he had for Jack, and at the end of the day, when you have come home and the world has whipped you so, it is the person who is there waiting for you who will listen to your troubles. The person who will comfort you when the shit has come down so hard, you have to wear a hat. The person who will be there for you when you are so sick you can barely stand.
The person who will close your eyes when you have left this world.
“On a late winter afternoon, Ida Mae is going through some old funeral programs like people go through family photo albums. She starts to thinking about all the funerals she has been to, and one stands out in her mind. It was of a nephew of her husband. The nephew had been gay, and his companion, who was white, was distraught beyond words.
“As she is recounting the story, Betty, the tenant from upstairs, happens to be there for a visit. Ida Mae describes how the companion was so torn up about her nephew’s death that he nearly climbed into the casket.
“It was a white fella he was living with,” she says. “And when they closed the casket, that white boy fell out. He said, “Don’t close the casket!’ He took care of him to the end. Wouldn’t let him go.
“I guess he musta really loved him,” she says.
“That’s not love,” Betty breaks in. “God didn’t mean for no man to be with no other man. They can’t love. They don’t know what love is.
“You don’t think they can love each other?” Ida Mae asks her.
“Can’t no man love another man. Only men and women can love each other.
“Ida Mae just looks straight ahead toward the couch. She knows what she saw. There are husbands who don’t show out like that for their wives and wives looking relieved and near-gleeful at their husbands’ funerals.
“Ida Mae shakes her head. “Well, I don’t know what it is.” she says.
“But it sure is something there.”
Excerpt from The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, Random House, New York, 2010, pgs. 484-485.
In the year 2015, much has changed, but, much still has remained in America’s perception and response to homosexuals and lesbians.
During the time frame that Brokeback Mountain covers, there was no such thing as gay pride, gay culture or hate crime laws passed to protect their rights as citizens. In the year the movie is set, 1963, the Stonewall Uprising led by Black and Puerto Rican American citizens had not occurred yet as it was six years into the future.
Brokeback Mountain received many good reviews upon release.
Critics praised the film:
“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.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Ang Lee’s unmissable and unforgettable Brokeback Mountain hits you like a shot in the heart. It’s a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Moviegoers expressed their views, some even having a change of heart towards homosexuals and lesbians, realizing that they too were just as human as heterosexuals. Some viewers even became distraught upon learning of Jack’s death in the film:
At the time director Ang Lee was casting his movie, he interviewed various actors for the roles of Ennis and Jack. From meeting with many of them, he saw their fear in taking on the role:
“Before Brokeback Mountain, the idea of a straight A-list actor playing a gay role in a hit movie seemed far-fetched. Afterwards it became almost commonplace, but it took Ang Lee to make that happen. Actors auditioned for Brokeback because Lee was a big name, but many were hesitant. “During the interviews I had a feeling they were a little, if I may say, afraid, uncomfortable,” recalls Lee. “Usually when they come to meet with [the director] their agents will follow up: ‘How’s it going?’ They didn’t say that to me this time.”
But, the roles fell to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who went on to achieve stardom in the roles of a lifetime. They boarded that ship and set sail into celluloid immortality.
Brokeback Mountain was nominated for eight Academy Awards. The acting and cinematography were superb, with Brokeback Mountain winning three Oscars at the 78TH Academy Awards:
Ang Lee, Best Director; Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, Best Adapted Screenplay; Gustavo Santaolalla, Best Original Score.
The soundtrack is wonderful with masterful and simple guitar pieces and songs sung by Willie Nelson, Rufus Wainwright, Emmylou Harris, among many others:
“A Love That Will Never Grow Old”; “He Was a Friend of Mine”, The Maker Makes”, “I Will Never Let You Go” and “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye”, to name just a few.
Memorable quotes occur as well:
“I wish I knew how to quit you”.
“If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it”.
“You know I ain’t queer.
“Friend, that’s more words than you’ve spoke in the past two weeks.
“Hell, that’s the most I’ve spoke in a year.”
“You know, your friend could come inside, have a cup of coffee…
“He’s from Texas.
“Texans don’t drink coffee?”
“You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. Twist, you guys wasn’t gettin’ paid to leave the dogs babysittin’ the sheep while you stem the rose.”
“You know friend, this is a god damn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation.”
“Old Brokeback got us good.”
“Bottom line is… we’re around each other an’… this thing, it grabs hold of us again… at the wrong place… at the wrong time… and we’re dead.”
“You’re 19, you can do whatever you want.”
“Jack, I swear….”
2005 | Soundtrack
At the end of Brokeback Mountain we see Ennis alone in his trailer home.
“Get along little dogies, get along. It’s your misfortune, and not of my own.
“You know that Wyoming will be your new home.”
SOURCE: Whoopee Ti Yi Yo (Get Along Little Dogies), traditional cowboy ballad.
He buttons Jack’s shirt and caresses the two shirts that belonged to him and Jack. Two shirts that are now one.
At Jack’s parents’ home, Ennis’ shirt was enclosed inside Jack’s shirt.
At the end of the movie, Jack’s shirt is enclosed in Ennis’ shirt.
Gently straightening a postcard of Brokeback Mountain, he says: “Jack, I swear….”
We are left to see this man close a door on a part of life he could never live, but, maybe in the next life he will find the peace and love with Jack that he could never have on Earth.