Saturday, August 18, 2007

Love and Loss: Brokeback Mountain Film Review

The abstract concept of love has always been discuccable yet undefinable. Love brings us together and tears us apart. Love creeps up upon us when we least suspect it and is often dificult to fend off; it is often said that ince in love, you can never fall out of it. Whatever the case may be, love is nearly impossible to directly describe, and so writers have, for centuries, created tales of love. Filled with varying human actions that seek to distinguish what is love from what isn't, some come across as corny and most are filled with cliches. In film, we usually run into the same problems, but the advantage of film is that the ultimate power of the written word can be combined with human interaction- film (like the acted plays) provides us with a chance to experience the poetry of love. And when the combination of the human element and the written word is a seamless weave, the viewer can wrap himself the warmth of love, and if but for a fleeting few hours, can understand what someone's defintion of love.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is one of those films. Set in Wyoming, this tale of lovers is, on a superficial basis, littered with cliches: forbidden love, affairs, lost love, utter devotion, etc. But what sets this film apart are the layers upon layers on which it is built. Under the careful direction of Ang Lee, a love tale is brought to life. Combining precise cinematography and composition with a fine set of actors, Lee portrays this tale of forbidden love. Ennis Del Mar, a tight-jawed midwestern cowboy played by Heath Ledger and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) seek employment in the early 60's. They are both hired to guide a flock of sheep up a mountainside -Brokeback Moountain- through the summer. They only spend meals together, carrying out different tasks for the rest of the day. Slowly they begin warming up to eachother, and, when a bitter cold has Twist invite Del Mar into the tent, the two make love in the warmth of the tent, and continue their affair until the end of the job. From here the story begins its rocky tavels forward, as Del Mar returns home to his soon to be wife Alma (Michelle Williams) and Twist soon finds a wife in Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). The film continues for the next 20 years or so, with Del Mar and Twist reuniting at Brokeback Mountain to continue their affair.
To say anything else about the plot would be giving too much away, so I'll continue with a discussion of the elements that made this film a beautiful exposition of love. First of all the acting was superb. Ledger gave an Oscar worthy performance, with his tight-jawed Midwestern accent and demeanor, he believeably portrayed a man torm between love and a life of responsibility towards his daughters. His facial expressions conveyed so much. While with Twist, be it happy or sad, you knew he was feeling either emotion. While separated from Twist, in his eyes one could see the longing of a man who knew love but struggled with societal norms and expectations that tore at him in every waking moment. There is a bit of history that also prevents him from fulfilling his heart's desires, and that notably eats at him too. Williams plays the role of betrayed wife well. She actually sees her husband kissing Twist and remains tight lipped about it until a crucial scene where she cracks. And as bad as you feel for Twist and Del Mar, so you feel for Williams's character.
An ability to make the viewer feel torn is yet another strength of the film. Del Mar and Twist are clearly in love, but you can't help but feel bad for Alma (Williams) and Newsome (Hathaway). These two women are innocents in a story much bigger than the players. Alma is in love with her husband and Newsome is struggling with a marriage that should have been nothing but a fling. And of course there are children involved, so the complications only build.
Lee's composition is a key element of the film. The placing of chracters in relation to the background conveys more than words sometimes, and supplements them others. When Del Mar and Twist escape to Brokeback Mountain, the beauty and serenity of the scenery provide for them that utopian dreamworld where love rules over reason. The craggy mountains and arduous storms are symbolic of the path they must tread if they wish to be together; the lush greenery, the clear water of the rivers and streams and serene ambiance of the natural and wild realm are symbolic of the purity and truth of the love they feel for one another. Careful composition of their flirtations and physical interactions also help convey their intense feelings. After not having seen eachother for four years, the two hug and then are pulled into one of the most passionate, affectionate kisses captured on film, their embrace only rivaled their final one towards the end of the film. While kissing, the camera places them somewhat off center, focusing more on their hands as they feel eachother's faces in surreal disbelief, clutching at eachother's wardrobes as though if they were to let go the other may be lost forever.
The love in the film is definitely real. The ending is perhaps one of the saddest I have seen and I wept in a heaving mess of tears. As a film it is tremendous and as a love film it dominates.
If asked to define love and all of its complexities and all of its simplicities , I would show that person BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

This film is a 10 of 10.

1 comment:

Gilberto David said...

Wonderfully well written. I don't think you need to make any comments about politics, except if it's to discuss the "politics" being described within the film itself, i.e., the way their relationship was perceived by the people/government of that time (haven't seen the movie so I don't know how strong an element that is). To tie it in to what the political climate of today is would, in my opinion, degrade the true meaning behind the movie; it's not a tale about how gay/homosexual love should be accepted and cherished by all, or that to attack such a relationship is hypocritical, etc. The movie is about love, and that's it. It doesn't matter who it's between, what counts is the emotion itself, not the controversy/open-mindedness that some people may feel the film is trying to impose.

(Not that I think you have those intentions in mind, it's just that some otherwise good-minded people use this kind of movie to push a particular agenda, when the last thing we need in regards to LOVE of all things is an agenda in the first place; love is love, and that's all that matters).