This is what I wrote to my mother regarding the film Brokeback Mountain:

I also thought I'd tell you why Brokeback has been getting such
acclaim. You saw it, however, when it was super-saturated by the media.
First of all, the film is part-Western (screenplay by the guy who wrote Lonesome
Dove) and Hollywood's love affair with the Western is well-chronicled. By
showing the love between Jack and Ennis, we finally get to see what movies like
Red River (with Montgomery Clift) only hint at. Secondly, the film is
unbelievably subtle. Normally, Ang Lee, the director, is ham-fisted with
his symbolism, but he was pretty restrained in this film. The real
centerpiece of the movie is living life in the closet and how it ruins
lives. The end of the film (which is actually the climax) has two literal
closets--Jack's boyhood closet which contains the two shirts from their time on
the mountain, and Ennis' closet where he keeps the shirts. The latter
closet also has a window in it which looks out onto a field of yellow
flowers. This is the visual contrast Lee has constructed for the film.
Visually, the movie contrasts openness and nature with structures and
society--which is exactly the struggle every gay man must face. Lots of
critics say that this film could be about people of two different races or two
different religions who are star-crossed lovers, but realistically, it couldn't
be. If it were about religion or race, then the audience would be allowed
to feel outrage that the constructs of society are what is keeping the couple
apart. The couple would never despise themselves or their love. The
tragedy of Ennis and Jack begins before either of them meet. We learn that
Ennis was shown a man who was beaten to death because he was gay. He was
taught early on to despise his very nature. Heath Ledger, the actor who
played Ennis, said of his character, —"Fear was instilled in him at an early
age, and so the way he loved disgusted him." He shows that in every frame
of the film, with every mumbled word and every silence. The way their lives fall
apart and the way they hurt those around them (unintentionally or otherwise) is
directly a result of their inability to understand the way they feel. So really,
even though the movie is unbearbly slow at times, it is definitely
intentional--Lee wants the film to sink into the audience's subconscious the way
that the image of a man beaten because he was gay must have stuck in Ennis'
psyche. Also, the fact that the film is about cowboys serves to both
Americanize and de-stereotype the lives of gay men. So that's why its getting
all of its praise.

I'm not gonna lie--I'm sure that I pilfered a line or two of that directly from a couple other sources. This was a letter I was writing to my mom, so forgive me the occasional plagiarism. My relationship with my mother has been strenuous since I came out to her, but occasionally we are afforded moments of understanding. Brokeback Mountain provided one of those moments for us. Since the heart of the film lie in Ledger's performance, I just wanted to take this space to thank him.
Rest In Peace


Danny said...

What a beautiful tribute to a young life cut short.

Thomas said...

Wow. I didn't check the news yesterday, so this was a very odd and touching way to find out about his death. The "Rest In Peace" at the end of your post was my first indication that he had died.

Very sad.

Thanks for sharing, Jeremy.