Brokeback Mountain, a Love Story
January 22nd was the 10 year anniversary of actor Heath Ledger’s death. He died young, at age 28, but left us an interesting cinematographic legacy. He was in Casanova, Monster’s Ball, Brokeback Mountain, The Dark Knight, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He didn’t get to finish the last one because he died, and other actors replaced him. Undoubtedly, his most memorable role is the Joker in The Dark Knight, a role that earned him a posthumous Oscar. For many, he was “the best Joker in history.”
Today we’d like to pay homage to Ledger with another film that marked his career, Brokeback Mountain. This Ang Lee movie was released in 2005. Ledger acted alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams. He met Michelle Williams on the set, and later married her. He had his only daughter, Matilda, with Williams.
Brokeback Mountain is based on the novel by Annie Proulx. The film received several awards, including three Oscars. This is a love story set in the 60s and 70s that shows us the social pressures homosexual people deal with.
Homosexuality in movies
Every year there are more homosexual characters in films. But the truth is that it hasn’t always been like that. In addition, many of these characters are often secondary or are not central to a romance. In fact, many used (and still use) them for comedy. Setting aside independent cinema, where we do find other types of stories, the truth is that we hardly find homosexual love stories in the most commercial films.
Homosexuality has been a great taboo throughout history. Although it has come a long way, it’s difficult to find sex scenes between homosexuals, though heterosexual sex scenes are plentiful. Homosexuals are rarely the protagonists or have a story like Romeo and Juliet or Titanic. It seems that society reserves the romance genre only for heterosexuality.
Although Brokeback Mountain isn’t the only movie with a homosexual theme, it was a pioneer in focusing the entire plot on a love story between people of the same sex. In addition, these people were men. This is even more interesting considering that romances have always been considered more feminine.
Along these lines, we realize that, even in heterosexual love scenes, the woman’s naked body usually monopolizes the scene more than the man. Like what you can see in Blue Is the Warmest Colour, it seems less scandalous to show naked women and lesbian scenes than the body of a man or a gay scene. Perhaps this is because this would cast doubt on the heterosexual stereotype of masculinity.
Stirring up controversy
Despite all the awards and success the film received, Brokeback Mountain was controversial. Ledger himself had to endure some uncomfortable and homophobic questions from the press. Some American associations linked to the Catholic Church also criticized the film harshly.
Some cinemas stopped projecting it. China banned it. And Italian channels censored the homosexual love scenes and even kisses during a broadcast of it on public television. However, they didn’t censor the movie’s explicit heterosexual love scenes.
However, the film managed to achieve its purpose: to treat a “controversial” issue respectfully. Above all, it showed the true love between two people, regardless of their sex.
Brokeback Mountain, the beginning
Brokeback Mountain is a slow, deliberate, silent film… but it’s totally emotional. This film brought something never-before-seen in commercial cinema: a love story between two men. These men appear to be “very macho” men and must fight to love each other in a society that punishes homosexuals.
Ennis Del Mar is a serious and quiet young man, and Jack Twist is cheerful and eloquent. They spend a summer working as shepherds in the mountains, completely secluded from the world. Loneliness, complicity, and coexistence causes a sexual encounter between them. In the beginning, it generates confused feelings. Later, it triggers a love story that would accompany them forever. The demands of the time, a patriarchal society, and a masculine stereotype make the protagonists hide their relationship.
Jack starts the relationship, while Ennis opposes it at first. However, he succumbs and goes along with his feelings in the end. Soon, we discover that Ennis has a strong armor and that he insists on keeping social appearances. He’s about to marry a woman and he makes it clear to Jack that he’s no “fag.” A trauma he suffered during his childhood doesn’t let him break his armor and thus keep on denying his true feelings. As a child, Ennis’ father forced him to witness the body of a man who was murdered and tortured because of his sexual orientation.
The story of Brokeback Mountain
Summer comes to an end and both leave their relationship aside. Their secret will remain hidden in the mountains. Ennis’ traumas will lead to violent scenes between the two of them because, despite his feelings towards Jack, he refuses to accept that he is homosexual and that will lead him to act with certain violence.
They both end up living with a woman, become parents, and live as they are supposed to. However, Ennis’ life is harder. His family has economic problems and he isn’t happy. Jack, on the other hand, marries a wealthy woman and his life seems much more pleasant. We eventually see that this is just a facade and that his marriage is in the rocks. His relationship with his father-in-law is very complicated. Jack’s father-in-law is the clear example of a Texan anchored in patriarchal values. He believes that every man must be a “good alpha male”, with habits associated with such a stereotype.
Jack and Ennis meet again after many years. From this moment on, their escapades become more frequent. Their passion and love didn’t fade away despite the passage of time. Jack is willing to leave everything to start a life with Ennis. He’s much more liberated and willing to fight for their feelings. But Ennis is a victim of society and can’t disengage from his role. He’s afraid of not being accepted and of ending up like the man he saw as a child.
Brokeback Mountain is a film that invites us to set prejudices aside and to see the story as it really is, a true love story. A love story between two men blossoms in a purely Western, Christian, and conservative environment. This love marks them for the rest of their lives.